Before Tropical Storm Idalia locked Florida’s eastern coast in its crosshairs, state residents were more likely to catch Gov. Ron DeSantis on TV shaking hands in Iowa as part of his presidential campaign than they were to see him in Florida. Now, as Idalia is expected to become a powerful hurricane, DeSantis said he is leaving the campaign trail to steer his state through the disaster.
“When you have situations like this, you’ve got to put the interest of the people first,” the governor said Monday morning in the Tallahassee emergency operations center, in response to a question about whether communications have been strained with the Biden administration, which he has sharply criticized as part of his White House bid.
“There’s a time and a place to have the political season, but then there’s a time and place to say that this is something that’s life-threatening,” he added. “We have a responsibility as Americans to come together and do what we can to mitigate any damage and to protect people.”
DeSantis spoke by phone with President Joe Biden at 9:35 a.m. Monday, according to the governor’s schedule.
When handled well, hurricanes have historically provided Florida governors with the opportunity to get a high volume of media coverage, which can prove to be an important political opportunity to solidify their image as a leader in times of crisis. Still, DeSantis’ situation is unique: He’s the first sitting governor of Florida to run for president while in office, which means no other governor has handled such a disaster with the intense level of scrutiny that being a presidential candidate brings.
DeSantis was scheduled to appear at an event Monday in South Carolina, but his wife, Casey, planned to go instead, according to a social media post from campaign spokesperson Bryan Griffin. A planned Monday morning DeSantis town hall in Kershaw, South Carolina, was also canceled.
But Sunday evening, DeSantis’ campaign texted out a promotion for a Thursday telephone town hall for donors. Forecasters have projected that Hurricane Idalia will make landfall on Florida’s Gulf Coast early Wednesday, with the arrival of tropical storm-force winds by Tuesday evening.
“Ron DeSantis is inviting his supporters to a teletown hall THIS WEEK!” the text message read. “Donate ANY AMOUNT now to join the invite list for 8/31!”
His campaign didn’t respond to an email Monday about whether that event is slated to continue as planned.
Monday afternoon, the campaign sent another fundraising text asking people to give before the end of August. At the end of the message, there was a note hinting that DeSantis’ team would scale back their appeals for the rest of the week because of the storm.
“You may not hear from us much in the next few days, but please know that does not mean this critical end-of-month push isn’t crucial to the campaign,” it read. “We’re counting on you.”