Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is being criticized by Donald Trump supporters for traveling out of state while his constituents in Fort Lauderdale are experiencing unprecedented flooding that has prompted emergency rescues and school closures.
DeSantis has been making stops in various states, which many speculate is part of a 2024 presidential campaign strategy, although he hasn't announced his candidacy yet.
In response to the accusations that DeSantis is prioritizing national attention over the needs of Floridians, a spokesperson for the governor said it was "wrong" for people to "rush to politicize every natural disaster."
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is getting backlash from Donald Trump supporters over his out-of-state travel amid a severe weather problem back home.
On Thursday, DeSantis is set to make an appearance in Ohio for a Republican event, but the visit comes as Fort Lauderdale is dealing with unprecedented flooding that has prompted emergency rescues and forced airport and school closures.
Trump supporters used the timing of DeSantis' Ohio trip to criticize the former president's friend-turned-foe for leaving his constituents behind to increase his national profile, which many have speculated will culminate in a 2024 campaign for the White House. Although DeSantis has yet to announce his candidacy for the Republican nomination, polls show he is Trump's most formidable rival.
"Fort Lauderdale, Florida was slammed with mass flooding last night. Floridians lost their cars, and many FL homes were flooded and destroyed by water damage," far-right activist Laura Loomer tweeted on Thursday. "Instead of doing his job, today @GovRonDeSantis is flying to Ohio to campaign for President." Loomer, who is based in Florida, is reportedly being considered by Trump for a campaign role.
Responding to a video of the flooding in South Florida, Alex Bruesewitz, a Trump-aligned GOP consultant whose been known to goad DeSantis' supporters, slammed the governor for "continu[ing] to put the people of Florida LAST."
"He should cancel his trip & be there for the Floridians who are struggling!" Bruesewitz tweeted.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks during a "Unite and Win" event as he campaigns for reelection on November 7, 2022. On Thursday, DeSantis is set to make an appearance in Ohio for a Republican event despite severe flooding in Fort Lauderdale. EVA MARIE UZCATEGUI/AFP via Getty Images
On Wednesday, Fort Lauderdale experienced its rainiest day in history after recording nearly 26 inches of rainfall in 24 hours, with some areas getting 20 inches in six hours. The heavy rain forced Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport to close until Friday morning and Broward County Public Schools, the nation's sixth-largest district, to close on Thursday.
Although Trump supporters used the extreme weather to criticize DeSantis, the governor's office told Newsweek that the governor's trip had been planned before the flooding began. The governor left Florida on Wednesday before the rain intensified in the night and is scheduled to return on Thursday, the office said.
"It's wrong for the media and political critics to rush to politicize every natural disaster," said DeSantis' press secretary, Bryan Griffin. "At the governor's direction, the entire state emergency apparatus is already in action working to understand and support the needs of SE Florida."
In Ohio, DeSantis is delivering on Thursday a keynote speech at the Butler County Republican Party's annual Lincoln Day Dinner.
Rob DeSantis is leaving Florida where his people are suffering from massive flooding to shadow campaign in Ohio. Governor of the year everybody! — The REAL Politically Savvy (@patriot_savvy) April 13, 2023
Ft Lauderdale saw massive flooding early this morning & Ron Desantis is 1,000 miles away, campaigning for President in Ohio
It was never actually about Florida to him pic.twitter.com/SsSclRqGwv — johnny maga (@_johnnymaga) April 13, 2023
As the race for the GOP's presidential nomination heats up, DeSantis is facing increasing criticism, including attacks from Trump, who has blasted his fellow Republican despite endorsing him for governor in 2018. Many have viewed DeSantis' weighing in on the national culture wars and his out-of-state trips as a wider strategy to ramp up a presidential run.
In recent weeks, DeSantis has made stops in New York, Michigan and Pennsylvania. Next week, he will make his first public visit to South Carolina, a critical state for 2024 GOP candidates and the site of the first Republican primaries.
On Thursday, Twitter user MAGA Catholic accused the governor of caring "more about 700 random people in Ohio than he does his constituents in South Florida, who are currently underwater."
"Very bad look for DeSantis to leave Florida while Fort Lauderdale is flooded," user Trump Crusader replied.
On Thursday afternoon, DeSantis announced that he had declared a state of emergency for Broward County in response to the severe flooding.
Social media users mocked the governor on Twitter, responding to his announcements with remarks like "Ron is a remote worker," "How is Ohio?" and "It's about time! Did you just get home?"
One user wrote: "Staunch supporter, but this was not a good look. If you were taking a vacation, which all should be able to do, even Governors, and used that time for a book tour, that is cool. Otherwise 😕."
Update, 04/13/23, 4:15 p.m. ET: This story was updated with additional background and information.