When President Donald Trump arrives in Panama City later Monday, he’ll be in a county that supported him 3 to 1 over Hillary Clinton in 2016. But instead of the adulation he receives at his frequent MAGA rallies, Trump will face a group of Floridians who are hurting, many of whom have lost all that they have. The President will need to invoke his unofficial title of comforter-in-chief. On most days brash New Yorkers and good ol’ southern boys don’t always see eye to eye, but this is a chance for the President to channel his compassionate side and show these reddest of red Republicans that he has their back.
Trump could take a cue from the man who will be by his side during this trip to Florida – Governor Rick Scott. Scott has been going non-stop since Michael hit Wednesday. He’s made trips every day to the impacted areas and taken steps to ensure the recovery stays on track.
Every time recovery efforts hit a road block, Scott has cleared the path. Here are two examples:
- Bad cell phone service hindered first responders recovery efforts and kept victims from contacting their loved ones? Scott pressures cell phone companies to bring in portable towers and more personnel. He even ordered the Florida Highway Patrol to escort them to the impact areas.
- Rural counties don’t get included in the initial President declaration allowing for individual assistance? Scott demands that FEMA expand the list of impacted areas, and gets his request in a matter of hours.
There’s still plenty of work to do. Power is returning to Bay County. It’ll be even slower in rural areas impacted by the hurricane.
And search and rescue still hasn’t completed its mission. There are at least 30 people unaccounted for in Mexico Beach, which took the direct impact of the hurricane. The death toll stands at 17 and many privately fear that number will go up.
Clearly there’s a lot of pain in the region. Monday’s a chance for Trump to show empathy, something even his strongest supporters would acknowledge he often lacks. But if there was ever a time a group of people needed to see that, it’s now.