By Jeff Mason and Trevor Hunnicutt
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. President Joe Biden will travel to Florida on Saturday to survey damage from this week’s Hurricane Idalia, but a visit with the state’s Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, is not scheduled, despite the president’s assertion that they would meet.
Biden, a Democrat who is running for re-election next year, told reporters at the White House on Friday that he would see DeSantis, who is running for the Republican presidential nomination to challenge Biden in 2024, during the trip.
DeSantis’s spokesman Jeremy Redfern said that was not the case.
“We don’t have any plans for the Governor to meet with the President tomorrow,” Redfern said in an email. “In these rural communities, and so soon after impact, the security preparations alone that would go into setting up such a meeting would shut down ongoing recovery efforts.”
The White House said Biden and his wife, Jill, would meet with members of the community affected by the storm.
“Their visit to Florida has been planned in close coordination with FEMA as well as state and local leaders to ensure there is no impact on response operations,” White House spokesperson Emilie Simons said in a statement.
The White House said Biden informed DeSantis on Thursday before visiting the Federal Emergency Management Agency in Washington that he would be coming to Florida, and the governor did not express concerns at the time.
The back-and-forth suggests politics could be creeping into the storm response.
Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who is also running for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, drew criticism for his praise of President Barack Obama in 2012 when the Democrat visited his state in the aftermath of superstorm Sandy.
Biden said earlier this week that politics had not affected his conversations with DeSantis.
“I think he trusts my judgment and my desire to help. And I trust him to be able to suggest that he’s — this is not about politics. This is about taking care of the people of his state,” Biden told reporters on Wednesday. The two men have spoken regularly this week.
Biden has asked for billions of dollars in additional emergency funding following a string of severe weather events.
He plans to visit Florida before flying to his home state of Delaware for the weekend. The president regularly visits states that have been affected by natural disasters.
(Reporting by Jeff Mason and Trevor Hunnicutt; additional reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by Doina Chiacu and Jonathan Oatis)