Trump dispenses greetings, hoagies in Florida
President interacts with officials, locals in aftermath of Irma
NAPLES, Fla. — President Donald Trump doled out hoagies and handshakes in the sweltering Florida heat Thursday as he took a firsthand tour of Irma’s devastation and liberally dispensed congratulatory words about the federal and state recovery effort.
Trump, who was in and out of the state in less than three hours, got an aerial view of the waterdeluged homes along Florida’s southwestern coast from his helicopter, then drove in his motorcade along streets lined with felled trees, broken traffic lights and shuttered stores on his way to a mobile home community hit hard by the storm.
Promise to return
Walking along a street in Naples Estates with his wife, Melania, the president encountered piles of broken siding and soggy furniture heaped on front porches, and residents who were happy to get a presidential visit.
“We are there for you 100 percent,” Trump said before donning gloves and helping to hand out sandwiches to local residents from a lunch line under a canopy. “I’ll be back here numerous times. This is a state that I know very well.”
Trump earlier met with federal and state leaders in Fort Myers, where he was brimming with enthusiasm for the state and federal response effort.
“It’s a team like very few people have seen,” he said.
Quoting back from Gov. Rick Scott’s praise for the federal government’s responsiveness, Trump added: “As Rick said, we have been very, very fast, and we had to be.”
Trump’s visit offered the chance to see how people are coping with Irma’s aftermath and how the Federal Emergency Management Agency is responding. Many Florida residents remain swamped and without electricity. Nearly 2.7 million homes and businesses, about one in four Florida customers, lacked power Thursday.
But as Trump’s comments about Scott suggested, politics wasn’t far from the surface in Florida, the largest and most pivotal state in recent presidential elections. Trump defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton in Florida last year by about 1 percentage point.
‘We’re with you today’
Vice President Mike Pence, who joined Trump on the trip, promised Floridians: “We’re with you today. We’re going to be with you tomorrow and we’re going to be with you until Florida rebuilds bigger and better than ever before.”
Trump’s trip to Florida was his third in less than three weeks to the storm-ravaged South.
After Harvey struck Texas, Trump drew criticism for having minimal interaction with residents during his first trip in late August. He saw little damage and offered few expressions of concern.
On his second visit, to Texas and Louisiana, he was more hands-on.
President Donald Trump and wife Melania visit Thursday with Naples, Fla., residents impacted by Hurricane Irma. Trump promised he will “be back here numerous times.”