Hurricane Ian makes landfall on Wednesday (September 28) afternoon and with it scrutiny of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R), who will be undertaking a pivotal moment in his political career: dealing with a natural disaster that could change the perception of his tenure.
Some 2.5 million Floridians are under evacuation orders as the devastating storm makes landfall. DeSantis, dealing with the storm and aftermath, will have to navigate a situation that has the power to make or break the perception of his politics.
Floridians — who often ignore the posturing coming from the Governor’s mansion — won’t be able to ignore DeSantis’ when the power’s out and they need solutions. Similarly, they won’t be able to ignore him when the state’s services are fractured, and DeSantis — as he is known to do — is addressing the public in anything but an empathetic tone.
Furthermore, DeSantis’s political stunts — which included flying 50 migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard, Mass. — won’t be as quickly forgiven by Florida’s strong Republican base as he will face greater scrutiny about how the state’s funds are being spent.
All of this will undoubtedly shape his 2024 Presidential bid should he decide to run.
But, the disaster could also work to bolster DeSantis’s White House ambitions. In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a Republican, was re-elected in the deep blue state.
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, then-freshman Rep. Bobby Jindal (Louisiana) emerged as a wealth of information for the battered state, boosting his run for Governor, which he later won.
Whether DeSantis will be defined as a victor by Hurricane Ian is yet to be determined. But DeSantis already seems to be up to the challenge, showing empathy and extending a bipartisan hand to President Joe Biden to ensure the state isn’t knocked out by the natural disaster a few weeks out from the midterms.