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Ron DeSantis Pauses Political Bomb-Throwing as Hurricane Ian Hits


WASHINGTON — As a robust hurricane hammers Florida’s Gulf Coast, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida is confronting a vastly different calculus in his dealings with President Biden and the federal government.

Mr. DeSantis, a Republican widely seen as holding White House ambitions, is one among his party’s foremost political provocateurs, often appearing on national television to rail against an administration in Washington he denounces as overbearing. As recently as February, Mr. DeSantis dismissed Mr. Biden as someone who “hates Florida,” saying baselessly that he “stiffs” storm victims of relief for political reasons.

But now, as Hurricane Ian threatens to inflict significant damage across Florida, Mr. DeSantis must depend on assistance from the identical federal government whose public health guidance he has ridiculed in the course of the pandemic. Beyond that, he must work with the very president he has castigated and should soon run to interchange.

“All of us must work together, no matter party lines,” Mr. DeSantis said on Fox News on Tuesday night, adding that he was “thankful” for the Biden administration’s assistance. “The administration desires to help,” he said. “They realize this can be a really significant storm.”

At a briefing early Wednesday evening, Mr. DeSantis noted that he had spoken with the president the day before. “He said all hands on deck, that he desires to be helpful,” Mr. DeSantis said. “He said whatever you wish, ask us. He was inviting us to request support.” Earlier, he praised help Florida had received from several federal agencies.

The disaster-driven pause in partisanship is a notable shift for Mr. DeSantis, a politician who got here to power during a highly polarized social media era and won his 2018 primary because of an endorsement from Donald J. Trump that he earned after defending Mr. Trump scores of times on Fox News.

The governor’s tenure has been characterised by a series of fights appealing to the Trump-aligned Republican base, particularly on social issues and the pandemic response. One query that immediately arose because the storm bore down on Florida was for a way long Mr. DeSantis, who’s searching for re-election in November against Representative Charlie Crist, a Democratic former governor, would put politics aside.

Mr. Biden, in contrast to Mr. DeSantis, has for many years sold himself as an across-the-aisle deal maker.

On Wednesday morning, the president made a degree to announce that he had been in contact with Mr. DeSantis.

“My team has been in constant contact with him from the very starting,” he said at a White House conference on hunger.

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Mr. Biden, who also spoke with several Florida mayors, said that he had told Mr. DeSantis that the federal government was “alert and in motion” and that he had approved every request from Florida for federal help.

“I made it clear to the governor and the mayors that the federal government is able to assist in each way possible,” Mr. Biden said.

The White House press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, also emphasized the temporary unity.

“There’s no politics on this, after we speak about extreme weather,” she said. “That is in regards to the people of Florida, that is about two individuals who desired to have a conversation on how we might be partners to the governor and his constituents and ensure that that we’re delivering for the people of Florida.”

Ms. Jean-Pierre declined to say how long Mr. Biden and Mr. DeSantis spoke for on Tuesday.

Hurricane Ian is the primary major storm to strike Florida since Mr. DeSantis took office in early 2019. He is working with a storm playbook long honed by governors of Florida, where the state’s response to Hurricane Andrew in 1992 was widely criticized as too slow and ineffective.

When he ran for president in 2016, Jeb Bush, a two-term governor, regularly highlighted Florida’s hurricane preparedness and rebuilding efforts under his leadership. Mr. DeSantis’s immediate predecessor, Rick Scott, burnished a somewhat awkward public persona while shepherding Florida through a series of hurricanes during his tenure.

Mr. DeSantis is unlikely to follow the trail of Gov. Chris Christie of Latest Jersey, whose warm greeting for President Barack Obama during an October 2012 visit to examine damage from Hurricane Sandy drew scorn from fellow Republicans during his subsequent presidential campaign.

Mr. Christie said in an interview on Wednesday that, 10 years later, “I wouldn’t change a thing.” He went on, “To me it at all times was that the job that I’ve been elected to do was an important thing and the politics on the time was secondary.”

He added: “I didn’t think there was anything to it in any respect. That’s a choice that Governor DeSantis goes to must make.”

On the Conservative Political Motion Conference in February, Mr. DeSantis said Mr. Biden “hates Florida” and “stiffs” storm victims due to politics. (There is no such thing as a evidence that Mr. Biden has withheld federal emergency relief for political purposes, though Mr. Trump often threatened to make use of an identical tactic when he was within the White House.)

Mr. DeSantis also spent months assailing federal public health guidance in regards to the pandemic. In August, he denigrated Dr. Anthony S. Fauci days after the doctor announced that he would retire as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

“Someone must grab that little elf and chuck him across the Potomac,” Mr. DeSantis said at a rally in Orlando.

And two weeks ago, Mr. DeSantis flew two planes full of undocumented Venezuelan immigrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., in an attempt to spotlight his opposition to Mr. Biden’s immigration policy.

“The largest stunt was Biden coming in as president and reversing Trump’s policies,” Mr. DeSantis told reporters in Florida days later. He also suggested that the subsequent plane of immigrants might land in Delaware, near the president’s weekend home.

Democrats were infuriated. Mr. Biden said Mr. DeSantis was “playing politics with human beings, using them as props,” adding: “What they’re doing is solely incorrect. It’s un-American. It’s reckless.” Asked days later what his response was to Mr. DeSantis’s threat to send the subsequent plane to Delaware, Mr. Biden replied: “He should come visit. We’ve a lovely shoreline.”

Michael D. Shear contributed reporting.

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