Measured Space: Biden and DeSantis Keep Distant in Florida Presidential Visit

In the aftermath of Hurricane Idalia, President Biden and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis chose to keep their interactions at a distance during the president’s visit to the state. Although plans were initially in place for a meeting on the ground, Governor DeSantis’ office announced on Friday that such a meeting could strain the state’s disaster response efforts, leading to a decision to abstain from a face-to-face interaction.

Despite being political rivals, DeSantis, vying for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination, and Biden maintained communication throughout the week leading up to the president’s visit. The two leaders collaborated on coordinating disaster response strategies, with Biden making a prior call to DeSantis before announcing his visit to Florida.

The location for President Biden’s visit had been mutually agreed upon by both teams earlier in the week. However, DeSantis’ team did not offer specific reasons for the decision not to participate in the meeting. It did not inform Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator Deanne Criswell before going public with the news.

Criswell mentioned that she was present on the ground with Governor DeSantis when he spoke to the president on Thursday, and at that time, there were no indications that a meeting would not occur between the two leaders.

President Biden acknowledged his ongoing communication with DeSantis without providing details. When asked about the failed meeting, Biden said he was not disappointed and speculated that there might have been other reasons behind the decision. He emphasized that DeSantis had played a role in planning the visit and collaborating with FEMA to determine the least disruptive locations.

Biden and DeSantis put aside political differences during times of crisis, for example, after the collapse of a building in Miami in 2021, as well as the aftermath of Hurricane Ian. However, the dynamics changed after DeSantis officially announced his presidential candidacy.

The situation recalls a similar scenario involving former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who walked the beach with former President Obama after Hurricane Sandy. This friendly interaction stirred controversy and haunted Christie during his 2016 presidential campaign, as critics argued it gave Obama an advantage. The debate over public interactions with political rivals continues to be relevant, with recent mentions in the GOP debate and the presence of political rivals like Senator Rick Scott during Biden’s current visit to the Sunshine State.

Despite policy differences, Senator Scott displayed a positive rapport with President Biden during the visit, praising his pre-storm declaration and discussing federal government efforts.