WASHINGTON - There's nothing like a Florida hurricane to whip up presidential politics.
When President Joe Biden flies to Florida on Wednesday to survey damage from Hurricane Ian, he'll be in proximity to a pair of potential 2024 re-election opponents: Former President Donald Trump and current Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Trump is giving a speech in which he will likely blast Biden - again - over issues that will animate the 2024 election, from inflation to border security. Biden and DeSantis, meanwhile, are planning a low-key meeting over recovery efforts in the wake of the deadly storm that ripped through the middle of Florida, killing more than 100 state residents and causing millions of dollars in property damage.
DeSantis and federal, state and local emergency management officials will "provide the president with an operational briefing on the current response and recovery efforts," said White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.
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Still, there will be political echoes in a pivotal swing state.
The trio has been trading barbs all year, previewing a presidential race that could be unmatched in vitriol. Biden has said Trump and his political movement are "a threat to our very democracy," while Trump branded his 2020 vanquisher as an "enemy of the state."
As Biden travels to Fort Myerson Florida's west coast, Trump is scheduled to speak across the state in Miami to a group of Hispanic conservatives. People will be watching to see if he says anything about DeSantis, his potential rival for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.
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"As some people would say, the stars are aligned," said Susan MacManus, political science professor emerita at the University of South Florida.
MacManus said she expects Biden and DeSantis to behave, as they have through the hurricane and clean-up, because that's what voters expect. "People are so down on politics right how," she said. "We're beyond people accepting boorish behavior in situations like this."
Trump, as ever, is a "wild card," MacManus said, but attacks on Biden while he is visiting a stricken state could backfire.
In months past, Biden and DeSantis have mixed it up over COVID regulations and immigration policy. But they have been more cordial since Hurricane Ian slammed into Florida. The two have spoken on the phone and exchanged pleasantries over federal and state assistance to hurricane victims.
This will not be the first face-to-face meeting between the U.S. president and the Florida governor, nor their first meeting over disaster relief. Biden flew to Florida in 2021 after the collapse of the Surfside condo building.
In that meeting, DeSantis told Biden "you've been very supportive," while Biden praised "the way we're cooperating."
Things were not so pleasant last month, after DeSantis authorized flights of migrants to Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts.
"Republicans are playing politics with human beings, using them as props," Biden said at the time. "What they're doing is simply wrong: it's un-American."
DeSantis responded that the federal government also flies migrants to places across the country, saying at one point: "So, when Biden is flying these people all over the fruited plain in the middle of the night, I didn't hear a peep out of those people."
The Florida governor has said little about his presidential prospects in 2024, focusing instead on his reelection race against Democratic nominee Charlie Crist. The two have a debate scheduled for next Wednesday.
While some Democrats have questioned whether Biden should run again - he turns 82 just weeks after the 2024 election - he has signaled he plans to do so. MSNBC host Al Sharpton said Biden told him during a conversation at the White House that "I'm going to do it again," according to a report by NBC News.
Biden has said he would love to run again against Trump, who faces storms of legal troubles. The former president faces a multiplicity of investigations over his handling of classified documents, his efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss to Biden, and the insurrection of Jan. 6, 2021.
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Whoever runs, Florida will be a key part of their campaign strategy.
Republicans cannot win a presidential election without Florida and its 29 electoral votes. Democrats usually make a big push in the state, however, and Trump won it over Biden in 2020 with only 51% of the vote.
Florida hurricanes and politics
Hurricanes have also had roles in Florida politics.
During the 1992 presidential election, Democratic candidate Bill Clinton visited southern Florida to tour the wreckage wrought by Hurricane Andrew, as he and others criticized the response to the disaster by the President George H.W. Bush administration.
Bush still wound up winning Florida, but lost the national election to Clinton - who carried the state in his 1996 reelection bid. The Democratic ticket of Barack Obama and Joe Biden carried Florida in both 2008 and 2012.
George W. Bush, whose court-contested narrow win in Florida gave him the presidency in 2000, repeatedly toured hurricane damage in Florida after a series of storms blew through the state during his 2004 reelection bid. He was often accompanied by his brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
Bush won Florida in 2004 by 5 percentage points over John Kerry on his way to a second term.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Biden, Trump, DeSantis: A 2022 hurricane previews the 2024 election