Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida is not expected to meet with President Biden on Saturday during the president’s visit to tour the aftermath of Hurricane Idalia, the Category 3 storm that hit the state this week.
“We don’t have any plans for the governor to meet with the president tomorrow,” Jeremy Redfern, the governor’s press secretary, said on Friday. “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.”
The statement came a day after Mr. Biden had said during a visit to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s headquarters in Washington that he would travel to Florida.
“By the way, I am going to Florida,” Mr. Biden said. “I’m going to Florida Saturday morning.”
The announcement had set in motion a flurry of activity at the White House, with aides and the Secret Service suddenly planning for a visit to flood-ravaged communities in Florida. While Mr. Biden did not provide details about the trip, he responded to a reporter’s question during an event at the White House on Friday morning about whether he planned to see Mr. DeSantis in Florida, saying simply, “Yes.”
Asked on Friday night about the statement from the governor’s office, a White House official, who was not authorized to discuss private conversations between the president and the governor, said: “The president informed the governor yesterday before his visit to FEMA. 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.”
Storms can sometimes make for strange bedfellows, especially when a president from one political party is called to help a governor who might otherwise be one of his harshest critics. In this case, the dynamics are amplified, as Mr. DeSantis has been seeking the nomination to run against Mr. Biden in 2024.
As Hurricane Idalia approached and then swept through Florida this week, Mr. DeSantis had four phone calls with Mr. Biden, which both sides described as productive — a stark change from how Mr. DeSantis talks about the president on the campaign trail.
Mr. Biden traveled to the state after the far more devastating Hurricane Ian last year. At the time, Mr. DeSantis was still considering a bid for the presidency. But both Mr. Biden and the governor have said they are putting politics aside in the aftermath of the storm.
“We have to deal with supporting the needs of the people who are in harm’s way or have difficulties,” Mr. DeSantis said earlier this week when asked about Mr. Biden. “And that has got to triumph over any type of short-term political calculation or any type of positioning. This is the real deal. You have people’s lives that have been at risk.”
Mr. DeSantis said in a news conference on Friday that he had mentioned to Mr. Biden on the phone that in “the hardest communities, it would be very disruptive to have the whole kind of security apparatus that goes,” adding, “I’m sure they’ll be sensitive to that.”
So far, state officials have confirmed only one death as being storm-related, although at least one other was linked to Idalia as well. Power had been restored to many homes by late this week. Roads and bridges were being reopened.
“We were ready for this,” Mr. DeSantis told Sean Hannity on Fox News on Wednesday night, speaking in front of a historic oak tree that had fallen on the governor’s mansion. “Most of the people did evacuate, and so we’re cautiously optimistic that we’re going to end up OK on that.”