DeSantis says he won’t meet Biden during president’s visit to Florida after Hurricane Idalia

Ron DeSantis’ office has said that he won’t meet Joe Biden during the president’s trip to Florida this weekend to inspect the damage caused by Hurricane Idalia.

Organizing a meeting between the Florida governor and Mr Biden would hamper disaster response efforts, a spokesman for Mr DeSantis said.

“In these rural communities, and so soon after impact, the security preparations alone that would go into setting up such a meeting would shut down ongoing recovery efforts,” Jeremy Redfern said in a statement.

Idalia made landfall on Wednesday morning in Florida’s Big Bend region as a Category 3 storm, causing widespread flooding and damage before moving north to drench Georgia and the Carolinas.

Mr Biden is scheduled to fly to Florida this morning to survey the damage which Idalia has left in its wake, after the White House declared the storm a major disaster.

Mr DeSantis’ decision to preemptively head off a meeting contradicts Mr Biden.

After an event at the White House on Friday, the president was asked whether he would meet Mr DeSantis when he travels to Florida. Mr Biden replied: “Yes”.

It’s also a break from the recent past when the two men met at the scenes of major disasters.

Mr DeSantis met Mr Biden when he visited Florida after Hurricane Ian devastated the state last year, as well as the Surfside condo collapse in Miami Beach in summer 2021.

But Mr DeSantis is now running for president in the Republican primaries against Mr Biden. The governor left the Republican primary campaign trail last week as Idalia barrelled toward his state.

Both Mr Biden and Mr DeSantis initially suggested helping storm victims would outweigh politics.

“There’s a time and a place to have political season,” Mr DeSantis 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.”

However the Florida governor’s sentiments appear to have shifted as the week wore on.

By Friday, Mr DeSantis was telling reporters in Tallahassee about Mr Biden:“One thing I did mention to him on the phone is where these communities are the hardest-hit communities – it would be very disruptive to have the whole security apparatus that goes because there are only so many ways to get into these places,”

Mr DeSantis subsequently said that he would shun a meeting with the president.

The Florida governor frequently draws applause at GOP rallies by declaring that it’s time to send “Joe Biden back to his basement” — a reference to the Democrat’s Delaware home, where he spent a lot of time during the early Covid lockdowns.

Still, Mr Biden suggested earlier in the week that the pair were cooperating easily.

While delivering pizzas to workers at the Washington headquarters of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the president said he’d spoken to Mr DeSantis so frequently about Idalia that “there should be a direct dial” between them.

News that Mr Biden and Mr DeSantis’ paths won’t cross during the president’s trip to Florida comes one day after the White House announced it is seeking an additional $4bn from Congress to address disasters.

Mr Biden speaks at the Washington headquarters of FEMA on Thursday

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