During Florida Visit, Biden and DeSantis Promise to Put Politics (Briefly) On Hold
It took Hurricane Ian to dial down the noise.
After the president and Jill Biden, the first lady, land at an airport in Fort Myers, Fla., on Wednesday — two days after visiting storm-battered Puerto Rico — they will board a helicopter and view the landscape by air. Fort Myers and other hard-hit cities, including Sanibel, Cape Coral and Fort Myers Beach, are in Lee County, where a majority of deaths from the storm have occurred. Mr. DeSantis has faced questions about why officials did not issue evacuation warnings in the county until the day before the storm hit — a day later than warnings in neighboring counties.
How Times reporters cover politics. We rely on our journalists to be independent observers. So while Times staff members may vote, they are not allowed to endorse or campaign for candidates or political causes. This includes participating in marches or rallies in support of a movement or giving money to, or raising money for, any political candidate or election cause.
Mr. Biden will land near Fort Myers Beach, a laid-back strip of sand and road that attracts rowdy spring breakers and margarita-toting sunbirds. The town was all but leveled when Hurricane Ian, a Category 4 storm with winds up to 155 miles per hour, slammed into the coast.
Unusually warm waters off Florida’s southwest coast powered the storm as it made landfall north of Fort Myers, tossing motorboats like toys, pulverizing mobile homes and gutting beach resorts. (Mr. DeSantis and other Florida Republicans have remained hostile to the idea that climate change could be causing more powerful storms.)
The governor will be among the officials who will meet Mr. Biden around 2 p.m. on Wednesday at his destination, a wharf area near the island, for an operational briefing.
As federal relief funds have flowed unimpeded to his state since Hurricane Ian, Mr. DeSantis — who as a freshman congressman voted against a funding plan that would have helped victims of Hurricane Sandy in 2013 — has turned from a smirking bomb thrower to an agreeable partner. He has spoken several times by phone with Mr. Biden in recent days. He has also played nice on television, even with more flammable personalities like Tucker Carlson of Fox News.
“But you know, when people are fighting for their lives, when their whole livelihood is at stake, when they’ve lost everything, if you can’t put politics aside for that, then you’re just not going to be able to,” Mr. DeSantis told Mr. Carlson last week. (To be sure, Mr. DeSantis has not totally divorced himself from his politics: In recent days, he has warned looters that Florida is a “Second Amendment state.”)
Either way, the president has carefully returned the volleys. When Mr. Biden received a briefing on the storm at the Federal Emergency Management Agency headquarters in Washington on Thursday, he told reporters that he and Mr. DeSantis had spoken several times.