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Biden surveys hurricane’s toll from the sky and floor in Florida

By WILL WEISSERT (Related Press)

LIVE OAK, Fla. (AP) — President Joe Biden on Saturday noticed from the sky Hurricane Idalia’s affect throughout a swath of Florida earlier than he set out on a strolling tour of a metropolis recovering from the storm. Notably absent was Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican presidential candidate who declined to hitch Biden after he urged that the Democrat’s presence may hinder catastrophe response efforts.

Biden, when requested about his rival’s absence, mentioned he was not upset by the flip of occasions, however welcomed the presence of Rick Scott, one of many state’s two Republican U.S. senators.

He pledged the federal authorities’s whole help for Floridians.

“I’m right here right now to ship a transparent message to the folks of Florida and all through the Southeast,” Biden mentioned after the strolling tour. He spoke open air close to a church that had elements of its sheet metallic roof peeled again by Idalia’s highly effective winds and a house half crushed by a fallen tree.

“As I’ve instructed your governor, if there’s something your state wants, I’m able to mobilize that help,” he continued. “Something they want associated to those storms. Your nation has your again and we’ll be with you till the job is completed.’

Earlier, the mayor of Stay Oak, which is about 80 miles east of Tallahassee, the state capital, thanked Biden and first woman Jill Biden for coming and “displaying us that we’re vital to you.”

“Everyone thinks Florida is wealthy, however this isn’t one of many richest counties within the state and there are people who find themselves struggling,” mentioned Frank Davis, including he knew of no lack of life or severe damage.

At Suwannee Pineview Elementary College, the place the Bidens had been briefed on the storm harm, native officers provided reward for early catastrophe declarations by the White Home and the short movement of federal support. “What the federal authorities is doing … is a giant deal,” Scott mentioned.

Serving to Floridians and their communities get again on their ft was the emphasis on the briefing on response and restoration efforts, with DeSantis’ conspicuous absence seemingly not a priority for residents and officers.

Deanne Criswell, the top of the Federal Emergency Administration Company, instructed reporters because the president flew from Washington that her staff and the governor’s staff had “labored collectively” to find out that Biden would go to Stay Oak. She mentioned her groups “have heard no considerations over any affect to the communities that we’re going to go to right now.’

On Friday, hours after Biden mentioned he can be assembly with DeSantis, the governor’s workplace issued an announcement saying there have been no plans for that. “In these rural communities, and so quickly after affect, the safety preparations alone that might go into organising such a gathering would shut down ongoing restoration efforts,” DeSantis spokesman Jeremy Redfern mentioned in an announcement.

DeSantis’ workplace mentioned his public schedule Saturday included stops in Keaton Seashore, about 60 miles southwest of Stay Oak, and Horseshoe Seashore, about 75 miles away, with the final occasion starting at 1:45 p.m.

Criswell mentioned aboard the flight that energy is being restored and the roads are all open within the space the place Biden was going. “Entry just isn’t being hindered,” she mentioned, including that her staff had been in “shut coordination” with the governor’s employees.

Idalia made landfall Wednesday morning alongside Florida’s sparsely populated Large Bend area as a Class 3 storm, inflicting widespread flooding and harm earlier than transferring north to drench Georgia and the Carolinas.

As Biden left Washington on Saturday morning, reporters requested what occurred with the assembly. “I don’t know. He’s not going to be there,” the president mentioned of DeSantis.

The political disconnect between each side is a break from the latest previous, since Biden and DeSantis met when the president toured Florida after Hurricane Ian hit the state final yr, and following the Surfside condominium collapse in Miami Seashore in summer time 2021. However DeSantis is now working to unseat Biden, and he solely left the Republican presidential major path with Idalia barreling towards his state.

Placing apart political rivalries following pure disasters could be tough, in the meantime.

One other 2024 presidential candidate, former Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, has lengthy been broadly criticized in GOP circles for embracing then-President Barack Obama throughout a tour of harm 2012’s Hurricane Sandy did to his state. Christie was even requested in regards to the incident final month, throughout the first Republican presidential debate.

Each Biden and DeSantis at first urged that serving to storm victims would outweigh partisan variations. However the governor started suggesting {that a} presidential journey would complicate response logistics because the week wore on.

“There’s a time and a spot to have political season,” the governor mentioned earlier than Idalia made landfall. “However then there’s a time and a spot to say that that is one thing that’s life threatening, that is one thing that would probably price any person their life, it may price them their livelihood.”

By Friday, the governor was telling reporters of Biden, “one factor I did point out to him on the cellphone” was “it might be very disruptive to have the entire safety equipment that goes” with the president “as a result of there are solely so some ways to get into” most of the hardest hit areas.

“What we need to do is be sure that the ability restoration continues and the reduction efforts proceed and we don’t have any interruption in that,” DeSantis mentioned.

The post-Idalia political penalties are excessive for each males.

As Biden seeks reelection, the White Home has requested for a further $4 billion to deal with pure disasters as a part of a supplemental funding request to Congress. That might convey the entire to $16 billion and spotlight that intensifying excessive climate is imposing ever greater prices on U.S. taxpayers.

DeSantis has constructed his White Home bid round dismantling what he calls Democrats’ “woke” insurance policies. The governor additionally incessantly attracts applause at GOP rallies by declaring that it’s time to ship “Joe Biden again to his basement,” a reference to the Democrat’s Delaware dwelling, the place he spent a lot of his time throughout the early lockdowns of the coronavirus pandemic.

However 4 months earlier than the primary ballots are to be solid in Iowa’s caucuses, DeSantis nonetheless lags far behind former President Donald Trump, the Republican major’s dominant early front-runner. And he has cycled by way of repeated marketing campaign management shakeups and reboots of his picture in an try to refocus his message.

The tremendous PAC supporting DeSantis’ candidacy additionally has halted its door-knocking operations in Nevada, which votes third on the Republican presidential major calendar, and several other states holding Tremendous Tuesday primaries in March — an additional signal of bother.


Related Press author Brendan Farrington in Tallahassee, Florida, contributed to this report.

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