Biden to campaign for DeSantis rival Crist in November Florida trip

By Jeff Mason

WILMINGTON, Del. (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden will take on a potential 2024 presidential rival, Florida's Governor Ron DeSantis, in a November campaign event for the Democratic candidate for governor, Charlie Crist.

The White House said on Sunday that Biden will travel to Fort Lauderdale, Florida on Nov. 1 to attend a reception for Crist, a former governor and member of Congress who is trailing in polls behind the popular Republican incumbent.

Biden and DeSantis have publicly played nice with each other in recent weeks in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian. During a joint appearance on a trip to survey storm damage in Florida, Biden said the two leaders had worked "hand-in-glove."

But the differences between them are stark. And both men could potentially be rivals in 2024 if Biden runs for re-election, which he has indicated he intends to do, and if DeSantis runs for the Republican nomination and succeeds in beating back former President Donald Trump, who is mulling a comeback bid.

DeSantis is popular in the Republican Party and has clashed with Biden on multiple policy issues including COVID-19 vaccines, immigration, and abortion rights.

The president's embrace of Crist and his attempt to boost him in the late stages of the campaign could be a sign that Democrats have not given up on hopes of toppling DeSantis in his home state. It could also reflect an effort to let Biden make a more muscular argument against a man who is a likely presidential hopeful.

Biden just completed a western travel swing in which he sought to boost Democrat Tina Kotek, who is running in a tight race for governor in Oregon. Control of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate is at stake in the November midterm elections, but state elections and governors' races are also being closely watched for their potential policy impacts on abortion and voting rights.

(Reporting by Jeff Mason; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

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