Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has been a vocal critic of Joe Biden’s presidency, sniping at Biden’s immigration policies by misleading migrants in Texas to board chartered flights to Martha’s Vineyard, rejecting COVID-19 vaccine mandates, and taking aim at federal actions to protect the rights of LGBTQ students.
But when Biden toured the storm ravaged Florida coast on Wednesday, the two men set aside their political grievances in light of the deadly damage left by Hurricane Ian. “We worked hand in glove,” Biden said in Fort Myers Beach. “We have very different political philosophies, and – but we worked hand in glove. And he’s been on – on things related to dealing with this crisis, we’ve been completely lockstep. There’s been no difference.”
DeSantis thanked Biden for the “team effort.” “We were very fortunate to have good coordination with White House and with FEMA from the very beginning of this,” he continued, standing in the ruins of a waterfront marina. “We got a major disaster declaration approved by the President and we really appreciated that, and that basically set off the massive mobilization that we had ready.”
Gone were the the biting taunts that have characterized DeSantis’ governing style and his combative bid for reelection next month against Democratic challenger Charlie Crist. Yet despite the compliments exchanged between the two politicians, it was hard to forget the political rancor that’s looming in the background. DeSantis is making a play for the national political stage, with an eye towards running on the Republican ticket to defeat Biden in 2024.
On Wednesday, the Governor and the President stayed focused on the tragedies and response to Hurricane Ian, a Category 4 storm that swept through southwest Florida and claimed more than 100 lives. Biden heard from officials on the ground about the massive federal and state mobilization of resources to handle the aftermath. Rescue crews were put in place before the storm, and those units have so far checked 70,000 homes and rescued some 3,000 people who survived the hurricane and storm surge, officials said. More than 40,000 linemen were stationed in Florida to be ready to repair downed power lines and restore electricity more quickly to hard hit areas. “Today we have one job and only one job, and that’s to make sure the people of Florida have everything they need to fully thoroughly recover,” Biden said. “Remember this is the United States of America—we’re all in this together.”
They did touch on one political issue: how to respond to climate change. DeSantis has pioneered a new Republican approach by funding projects that help communities adapt to the changing climate, but stopping short of supporting steps to address the root cause of continuing carbon emissions in the atmosphere. Even there, Biden focused on the positive, praising DeSantis for acknowledging that the “world is changing.”
As Biden exchanged handshakes, chest bumps, and hugs with local residents and business owners amid the gutted buildings and upturned boats in Fort Myers Beach, video footage captured a glimpse of Biden’s rough edges showing through, and a hint of the fierce political sparring that had been paused on Wednesday. At one point, Fort Myers Beach Mayor Ray Murphy, in a tan shirt and sun hat, walked up to shake Biden’s hand and thank him for coming to Florida, telling him to “keep the faith.” As the two conversed, Biden, said, “No one f-cks with a Biden.”
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