The White House fired back at Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday night after the governor’s office said he wouldn’t join Joe Biden when the president visits his storm-ravaged home state Saturday.
DeSantis’ snub comes as Floridans are seeking federal infusions worth billions to recover from massive destruction in the path of Hurricane Idalia – and after the president said he would meet with DeSantis when asked about it.
A DeSantis spokesman said the governor, who is a top Republican presidential contender, has ‘no plans’ to meet Biden, citing concerns a visit could impact recovery efforts.
That comes despite the president responding ‘yes’ when asked Friday if he planned to meet with DeSantis.
The White House fired back later, saying the Florida governor ‘did not express concerns’ in his many phone calls with Biden. And DeSantis met with Biden in 2022 when the president visited Florida to see the damage from Hurricane Ian.
The bickering and recovery efforts come amid the backdrop of the 2024 presidential election. DeSantis is running for the Republican nomination and coming in second to former President Donald Trump in the polls for the right to take on Biden next year.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has ‘no plans’ to meet President Biden, who is visiting Florida Saturday afternoon
‘We don’t have any plans for the Governor to meet with the President tomorrow,’ said DeSantis spokesman Jeremy Redfern.
‘In these rural communities, and so soon, and so soon after impact, the security preparations alone that would go into setting up such a meeting would shut down ongoing recovery efforts.’
He made the statement, which was confirmed by DailyMail.com, just as the White House was making preparations for a trip.
The White House fired back on Friday night, noting DeSantis didn’t raise any concerns about Biden’s visit when the two men discussed the trip.
‘The president informed the governor yesterday before his visit to FEMA,’ a White House official said of Saturday’s trip.
‘The governor did not express concerns at that time. The visit was closely coordinated with FEMA, state and local officials to ensure there is no impact to ongoing response operations.’
Biden has made multiple phone calls to DeSantis, and the White House has staged regular briefings by security officials. It is the kind of federal-state collaboration that presidents and governors usually to put forward to display cooperation in a recovery situation.
And, while visiting FEMA headquarters in Washington D.C. on Thursday, Biden said he had spoken to DeSantis so frequently that ‘there should be a direct dial’ between the pair.
The White House noted that Saturday’s visit was coordinated with FEMA so rescure operations wouldn’t be impacted. FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell is on the ground in Florida and will join President Biden and first lady Jill Biden on their tour of damaged areas.
‘Their visit to Florida has been planned in close coordination with FEMA as well as state and local leaders to ensure there is no impact on response operations,’ White House spokesperson Emilie Simons said in a statement.
President Biden heads to Florida Saturday to view storm damage. In Florida UBS bank estimated that insurance claims would amount to a staggering $10 billion
DeSantis is tending to storm recovery even as he runs a presidential campaign, where his poll numbers have sagged
Storm recovery costs could hit $20 billion
Biden and DeSantis did meet in June 2021 following the collapse of the Surfside condominium.
NBC first reported on DeSantis’ latest plans.
Biden himself often cites the security footprint issue when weighing visits – including his chaotic visit to tour wildfire damage in Hawaii. But with Biden going, there will already be a substantial Secret Service and security presence in place.
Idalia made landfall Wednesday near Keaton Beach with winds of about 125 mph and a six-foot storm surge.
At first, both Biden and DeSantis said helping storm victims would outweigh presidential politics.
However, DeSantis began raising concerns as this week drew to a close.
‘There´s a time and a place to have political season,’ the governor said before Idalia made landfall. ‘But then there´s a time and a place to say that this is something that´s life threatening, this is something that could potentially cost somebody their life, it could cost them their livelihood.’
But, on Friday, DeSantis told reporters of his talks with Biden: ‘One thing I did mention to him on the phone’ was ‘it would be very disruptive to have the whole security apparatus that goes’ with the president ‘because there are only so many ways to get into’ many of the hardest hit areas.
‘What we want to do is make sure that the power restoration continues and the relief efforts continue and we don´t have any interruption in that,’ DeSantis said.
The scale of the damage was becoming clear on Friday. Some 28,000 residents were told they could be without power for two weeks after the storm brought down power lines and left a trail of destruction.
But it could have been worse. It took a late turn away from the state capital Tallahassee, and its population of 200,000 people.
Instead it hit less populated coastal regions.
Even so, in Florida UBS bank estimated that insurance claims would amount to about $10 billion.
Other estimates suggested the final cost could be more than $20 billion in Florida alone.
If DeSantis does stay away from Biden, he may avoid a repeat of former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who famously ‘hugged’ President Barack Obama during his 2016 trip to view storm damage from Hurricane Sandy.
Christie is among DeSantis’ 2024 rivals, in a race where former President Donald Trump is the undisputed poll leader.