DeSantis faces the real test of any Florida governor

The hurricane is set to make landfall in the state just six weeks before the November election and, depending on how the governor reacts to the potentially catastrophic storm, DeSantis could become more popular or open up to criticism. .

Although no governor frames hurricane responses in political terms, the storms have shaped the legacies of past Republican governors. Jeb Bush and Rick Scott, who both faced several major weather events. While no elected official wants a major natural disaster, hurricanes provide nearly unlimited access to free national media, a huge boost to any governor’s political fortunes.

« Failure of a response: hard to get re-elected and your program stops, » said former Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator Craig Fugate, who served as Bush’s emergency management director. , in a text message. Do well, however, and it « adds capital to your agenda and prepares you for higher office. »

Every storm brings its own set of political and political challenges, and Hurricane Ian is no different. Aside from the immediate life-and-death challenges of responding to a storm, one of the biggest issues DeSantis faces is how the storm will affect the already shaky property insurance market in Florida. Many have long feared that a major hurricane could force some of Florida’s smaller national carriers into bankruptcy, further damaging the state’s already shaky market and leaving policyholders hanging.

Monday’s forecast showed the storm slowing and potentially ravaging parts of the Gulf Coast for two to three days, an outcome that could lead to massive flooding and powerful storm surges. Some projections show the hurricane making landfall near Tampa, a coastal city that hasn’t been directly affected since 1921. Mandatory evacuations are expected in Hillsborough and Pinellas, two of the state’s most populous counties.

“It really turned into a really big storm,” DeSantis told reporters Monday at the State Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee. « Only the impacts are going to be distant. »

Through Monday, DeSantis held three briefings at the Emergency Operations Center, a regular location for governors who manage storm responses. However, he didn’t come out as publicly as Scott, who oversaw statewide responses to four hurricanes during his eight years as governor.

As the storms approached, Scott was hosting statewide media events, donning his Blue Navy baseball cap. It has also become a staple of national television, notably on the weather channel. Scott appeared on every network morning show the same day as Hurricane Irma approached, a massive storm that caused the largest evacuation in state history in 2017. On Monday morning, the director of DeSantis emergency management Kevin Guthrie was a guest on the Weather Channel, but DeSantis has yet to make an appearance on the channel during this weather event.

DeSantis also sets aside his openly pugilist politics as Ian continues. He praised the Biden administration after the president declared a state of emergency for Florida on Saturday, allowing FEMA to begin coordinating efforts before the storm arrives. It was a rare compliment from a governor who has used Biden as a political heel on a range of partisan issues as he prepares for what could be a run for the White House in 2024.

« They’re ready to help, so we appreciate that quick action, » DeSantis said.

DeSantis quickly declared a state of emergency for more than two dozen potentially affected counties, mobilized thousands of Florida National Guard troops, suspended tolls, coordinated with utility companies and major chains grocery shopping for bottled water – all the necessary first steps before any major storm hits. As he begins to hold daily press conferences, DeSantis’ attention has shifted away from politics, but it’s not yet clear whether his re-election campaign will remove political ads or suspend political activity.

DeSantis, who came under fire from Democrats after ferrying migrants to Martha’s Vineyard, has not facilitated another robbery since Sept. 14.

DeSantis developed a reputation as a deeply partisan fighter. His largely hands-off pandemic response and willingness to choose from a wide range of culture war conflicts have given him name recognition from coast to coast and made him a potential top Republican candidate for the presidency. But it also turned him into one of the Democrats’ biggest national boogeymen and a central figure, along with former President Donald Trump, in the Democratic national messaging system.

For his critics, putting that aside will be a key measure for his response to the storm.

« I hope the division that has defined Florida and national politics does not impact people’s ability to follow their leaders’ instructions, » said Miami Beach Democratic Mayor Dan Gelber. “Florida politicized vaccines and masks, and the results were tragic. We cannot afford to make the same mistake again. »

The hurricane could also pose a threat to Biden if the recovery is mishandled, just as then-President George W. Bush was roundly criticized in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in 2005. .

A campaign spokesperson did not return a request for comment. A spokesman for Democratic challenger Charlie Crist said Sunday night that his campaign is monitoring the situation.

« At this time, we have not made any final decisions regarding the ads, » said Sam Rodriguez, a spokesperson for Crist. « But we are preparing to mobilize and deploy campaign assets in every way we can to support potential recovery efforts. »

Crist previously served as the state’s Republican governor from 2007 to 2011, a time when Florida saw no hurricanes make landfall. He made headlines in 2017 when, as a congressman, he visited Israel and posted a note in the Western Wall in Jerusalem that read: “Dear God, please protect Florida from storms and other hardships. Many thanks for your blessings. Sincerely, Charlie.

Mishandling a hurricane, like any natural disaster, can hurt any governor. Former New Jersey GOP Gov. Chris Christie was generally praised for his response to Superstorm Sandy in 2012, one of the deadliest hurricanes of that year. But conservatives grew suspicious of Christie after his appearance with then-President Barack Obama and praised him after the White House accelerated state aid.

Former Governor Jeb Bush handled nine hurricanes during his two terms from 1999 to 2007, including four staggering ones in 2004 alone. His response to these storms was generally well received and won him bipartisan praise. His skillful handling of so many storms prompted the Miami Herald to dub him « Governor Hurricane » ahead of his failed 2016 presidential bid.

Scott generally got high marks for his hurricane handling and turned that into a political boost. After Hurricane Irma, Scott saw his approval rating rise as he prepared to challenge Democratic Senator Bill Nelson in a 2018 race that Scott ultimately won.

This “bump” was noted at the time by the director of the St. Leo University Institute of Survey, Frank Orlando.

« Rick Scott has always had a high approval rating in 2017, and he certainly got a little bump for how he handled a tough hurricane season for the state of Florida, » he said. declared.


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