Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is putting a couple hundred of his state’s National Guard forces on standby as Florida braces for a direct hit from Tropical Storm Elsa.
“Be prepared to be without power for a few days, having enough food and water for each person in your family, including for your pets,” the governor warned Floridians on Tuesday morning as he spoke at a news conference from the State Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee.
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“It’s important that Floridians don’t focus on the cone. Impacts are expected well outside that area,” DeSantis cautioned.
Florida’s first-term Republican governor has been smack in the middle of the national spotlight the past two weeks, from the horrific condominium collapse in Surfside, Florida to the impending tropical storm Elsa.
And that’s enabled the rising star within the GOP to push politics aside in recent days, as he deals with the twin crises.
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DeSantis has been one of the biggest Republican critics so far this year of President Biden and his Democratic administration. But with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) working side by side with Florida authorities on the building collapse response efforts – partisan politics melted away on Thursday as the governor and the president sat side by side at a briefing close to the site of the deadly disaster.
On Saturday, DeSantis passed on attending a large rally in Sarasota, Florida, with his ally, former President Trump, as he dealt with the condo collapse and storm preparations.
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DeSantis – a conservative congressman who was narrowly elected Florida governor in 2018 with the support from then-President Trump – has seen his popularity surge among Republican voters in Florida and around the nation, thanks in large part to his steering of his state amid the coronavirus pandemic and his combative pushback against COVID restrictions. And that’s fueled speculation about possible national ambitions and a potential 2024 Republican presidential nomination run by DeSantis.
But first things first — DeSantis faces what could be a potentially challenging reelection bid next year, as he runs for a second term steering Florida.
Political strategists say that while dealing with these twin crises obviously outweighs any campaign concerns, being in front of cameras and in the national spotlight day after day does bring some benefits.
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“Being able to parlay the duties of your day job into potential political success is something that others have done well,” Republican strategist Colin Reed noted. “If you do your day job well, good policy tends to yield good politics.”
But Reed, a veteran of GOP Senate and presidential campaigns, cautioned that “sometimes situations can careen out of your control. So it’s high risk, high reward.”