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Ron DeSantis gives cold shoulder to Joe Biden as he visits disaster-hit Florida

US President Joe Biden gestures while boarding Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, on September 2, 2023. — AFP
US President Joe Biden gestures while boarding Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, on September 2, 2023. — AFP

As US President Joe Biden went to visit the hurricane-hit Florida Saturday, it appeared that the state’s governor Ron DeSantis did not show any sign of welcoming the 80-year-old commander in chief of the country “as his security preparations would hinder relief efforts”.  

“I don’t know. He’s not going to be there,” Joe Biden said when asked about a meeting with DeSantis that he had previously confirmed.

DeSantis’ office told US media Friday that the security requirements of Biden’s visit would cause too much disruption to recovery efforts and there were no plans for the pair to meet.

“We want to make sure that the power restoration continues, that the relief efforts continue,” DeSantis — who is running for the White House under the Republican party banner — told a news conference.

Biden — who is bidding again for the Oval Office — visited the city of Live Oak Saturday, surveying damage via helicopter before meeting first responders and local officials at an elementary school.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, second from left, talks with local business owners before a press conference in the aftermath of Hurricane Idalia on August 31, 2023, in Steinhatchee, Florida. — AFP
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, second from left, talks with local business owners before a press conference in the aftermath of Hurricane Idalia on August 31, 2023, in Steinhatchee, Florida. — AFP

Large trees, broken limbs and tattered signs littered the side of the motorcade route, a testament to the power of the storm that hit the Florida coast Wednesday as an “extremely dangerous” hurricane, killing one person in Florida and one in Georgia.

The president and first lady Jill Biden met with evacuated residents at the school, shaking hands and taking photos with the storm victims.

Joe Biden told reporters: “As I told your governor [Ron DeSantis] if there’s anything your state needs, I’m ready to mobilise that support. Your nation has your back, and we’ll be with you until the job is done.”

DeSantis is bidding for the Republican party’s nomination to be its candidate in the 2024 White House race, though his campaign has struggled and polls show him lagging far behind frontrunner Donald Trump.

Biden, who himself has tepid approval ratings and is fighting an uphill battle against perceptions he’s too old for a second term, did not delve into questions on DeSantis’ rebuff.

“Well, no, I’m not disappointed,” he said.

“He may have had other reasons, but he did help us plan this [visit]. He sat with FEMA and decided where we should go, where would be the least disruption.”

Biden pointed to the presence of Florida Senator Rick Scott as a “reassuring” sign that the state leadership and federal authorities were working well together — though former governor Scott met Biden while wearing a baseball cap labelled “45,” a nod to Trump’s White House tenure.

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