Biden heads to Florida to survey hurricane damage


United States President Joe Biden is heading to Florida to survey damage caused by Hurricane Idalia and comfort people affected by the storm, but he will not be meeting Ron DeSantis, the state's Republican governor and a potential presidential rival.

Biden, a Democrat, told reporters on Friday he would see the governor during the trip, but DeSantis's spokesman Jeremy Redfern said later no meeting was planned and "the security preparations alone that would go into setting up such a meeting would shut down ongoing recovery efforts".

DeSantis, 44, is running for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination to oust Biden from the White House but trails former president Donald Trump in polls.

Biden, 80, is running for re-election.

Biden and DeSantis have spoken regularly through the week about the storm, which pummelled Florida's Big Bend region with Category 3 winds of almost 200km/h.

On Wednesday the president said politics had not crept into their conversations.

"I think he trusts my judgment and my desire to help," Biden said.

The White House said Biden, who is travelling with his wife, Jill, informed DeSantis about the visit during a conversation on Thursday and the governor did not raise concerns then.

"Their visit to Florida has been planned in close co-ordination with FEMA as well as state and local leaders to ensure there is no impact on response operations," White House spokeswoman Emilie Simons said, referring to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

DeSantis has been a sharp critic of Biden, and the two have clashed over COVID-19 vaccines, abortion and LGBTQI rights.

But they met last year when Biden came to Florida to assess the devastation from Hurricane Ian, and Biden said at the time they had worked together "hand-in-glove".

DeSantis might not want to be photographed with Biden overlooking storm damage now as the Republican presidential primary race intensifies.

Although he trails Trump, DeSantis leads the other Republican candidates in the race.

Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who is also running for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, drew criticism for his praise of then-president Barack Obama in 2012 when the Democrat visited his state in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy.

Biden visited Hawaii last week in the aftermath of deadly fires there and said on Wednesday no one could deny the climate crisis in light of the extreme weather.

He is slated to travel to his home state of Delaware for the weekend after concluding the Florida trip.