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Christie says DeSantis put ‘politics ahead of his job’ by not seeing Biden during hurricane visit

The president was in Florida over the weekend to survey Idalia’s damage.
 
Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks during a Republican presidential primary debate hosted by Fox News, Aug. 23 in Milwaukee
Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks during a Republican presidential primary debate hosted by Fox News, Aug. 23 in Milwaukee [ MORRY GASH | AP ]
Published Sept. 6, 2023

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Republican presidential hopeful Chris Christie says Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis had put “politics ahead of his job” by declining to meet with President Joe Biden during the Democrat’s weekend visit to survey Hurricane Idalia’s damage in DeSantis’ state.

“Your job as governor is to be the tour guide for the president, is to make sure the president sees your people, sees the damage, sees the suffering, what’s going on and what needs to be done to rebuild it,” Christie said about his rival for the 2024 nomination in an interview Tuesday on Fox News Radio’s “The Brian Kilmeade Show.”

“You’re doing your job. And unfortunately, he put politics ahead of his job,” Christie said. “That was his choice.”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis talks on the phone with President Joe Biden, as he and his wife Casey, left, stop at the storm-damaged restaurant Shrimp Boat during a visit to Horseshoe Beach, one day after the passage of Hurricane Idalia, Aug. 31.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis talks on the phone with President Joe Biden, as he and his wife Casey, left, stop at the storm-damaged restaurant Shrimp Boat during a visit to Horseshoe Beach, one day after the passage of Hurricane Idalia, Aug. 31. [ REBECCA BLACKWELL | AP ]

No one knows better than Christie how such a sticky political situation can create an enduring image. Photos of then-New Jersey Gov. Christie giving a warm greeting to Democratic President Barack Obama during a visit after Superstorm Sandy in 2012 earned Christie scorn among national Republicans.

Obama placed his hand on Christie’s shoulder. Some Republicans labeled it a “hug” and suggested it contributed to GOP nominee Mitt Romney’s loss to Obama in that year’s general election. Christie said he was simply doing his job by meeting with the president.

Idalia made landfall last week along Florida’s Big Bend region as a Category 3 storm, causing widespread flooding and damage before moving north to drench Georgia and the Carolinas. Biden, who toured the state on Saturday, had initially said that he would meet with DeSantis during his trip, but the governor’s office said DeSantis had “no plans” to see Biden, suggesting that doing so could hinder disaster response related to Idalia.

President Joe Biden surveys damage caused by Hurricane Idalia, Saturday in Live Oak.
President Joe Biden surveys damage caused by Hurricane Idalia, Saturday in Live Oak. [ JULIO CORTEZ | AP ]

Biden and DeSantis have met other times when the president toured Florida after Hurricane Ian hit the state last year and after the Surfside condo collapse in Miami Beach in the summer of 2021. But DeSantis is now running for president and hoping to take on Biden in the 2024 general election.

FILE - President Joe Biden and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis arrive to tour an area impacted by Hurricane Ian on Oct. 5, 2022, in Fort Myers Beach.
FILE - President Joe Biden and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis arrive to tour an area impacted by Hurricane Ian on Oct. 5, 2022, in Fort Myers Beach. [ EVAN VUCCI | AP ]

DeSantis’ campaign did not comment on Christie’s critique.

Christie has defended his own response to the presidential visit during Sandy, saying that although he and Obama had fundamentally different views on governing, the two men did what needed to be done for a devastated region.

The “hug” moment, however, has trailed Christie ever since. It emerged last month during Republicans’ first 2024 debate, when Vivek Ramaswamy responded to a barb from Christie — who said the biotech entrepreneur’s opening line about being a skinny kid with a hard-to-pronounce name reminded him of Obama — by asking if the former governor wanted a “hug,” a reference to Obama’s post-Sandy visit.

By MEG KINNARD, Associated Press.