Gov. Rick Scott’s visit to Puerto Rico Wednesday to pay tribute to those who lost their lives a year ago during Hurricane Maria marks the eighth visit by Scott since the hurricane devastated the island. Scott was invited by the Puerto Rican government to join Governor Ricardo Rosselló at events on the island commemorating the lives lost in the storm. Local officials credit Scott with providing guidance and support in the immediate days and the months that followed.
The trip underscores the significance Scott and other Florida politicians continue to put on a growing segment of voters who have moved from Puerto Rico and now call Florida home.
It also focuses attention on reports of tension between the White House and some politicians — namely Republican gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis — over the official death toll from Maria.
The initial number of fatalities from the storm ranged from six to 18, But a recent report by George Washington University commissioned by the government of Puerto Rico, indicates the death toll from Maria was of 2,975,
President Donald Trump doesn’t believe the numbers are as high as cited by the report. He believes they are the work of Democrats to try to embarrass him. But some of his supporters, including Scott and DeSantis, have accepted the findings of the study.
“Ron DeSantis is committed to standing with the Puerto Rican community, especially after such a tragic loss of life. He doesn’t believe any loss of life has been inflated,” the DeSantis campaign said last week after Trump questioned the higher fatality number.
A report by Politico suggests Trump has “lashed out” in anger at DeSantis accusing the former congressman of publicly betraying him.
The president has told close associates in recent days that he views DeSantis — who won his Aug. 28 GOP primary thanks to Trump’s strong support — as profoundly disloyal for distancing himself from the president’s assertion that the Hurricane Maria death toll was inflated by Democrats for political purposes.
DeSantis’ victory was largely due Trump’s support and “full endorsement” of DeSantis.
One person close to the president described the situation as a “divorce.” At the moment, Trump has no plans to travel to Florida to campaign for DeSantis in the November general election, according to two GOP officials familiar with the president’s schedule.
A divorce? Not likely. Maybe more like a reconciliation period or a short separation at worst.
Florida is the nation’s largest swing states. Trump needs DeSantis in the Governor’s Mansion if he is to have any hope of winning Florida in 2020. DeSantis needs Trump, as was evident in the primary, if he is to have any chance of winning the governor’s seat.
Both men have invested too much politically in each other to end it now.
Trump virtually propelled DeSantis into the governor’s race in December when he posted on Twitter that DeSantis would make a great governor for Florida. Within weeks, DeSantis entered the race. In June, Trump tweeted his “full endorsement of DeSantis and attended a rally for him in Tampa. The race turned for DeSantis almost overnight and he easily defeated Adam Putnam for the GOP nomination for governor.
DeSantis has been one of Trump’s biggest supporters and loudest defenders of the president’s. He has been very vocal against special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
In the world of the Trump administration, where issues come and go in a blink of an eye, this too shall pass.
“So yeah, maybe the president is angry, but he’ll cool off,” said Michael Caputo, a former Trump advisor who lives part-time in Miami. “He knows Florida is more of a hospitable place for him in 2020 with DeSantis in the governor’s mansion than [Democrat] Andrew Gillum. President Trump needs DeSantis in 2020 just like DeSantis needs Trump in 2018.”