As Hurricane Matthew threatens the East Coast of Florida, it’s never too early to think about political ramifications of a major natural disaster. We have seen it before in a Presidential election year in the Sunshine State.
Hoping to head that off at the pass – even before the storm made its approach – was former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who publicly urged the campaigns of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton to “be sensitive.”
Bush, who was widely praised for his work as Governor of Florida in dealing with a series of damaging tropical systems in 2004 and 2005, also took the time to warn residents of his home state to get ready.
While Jeb Bush is still known by some as a “Hurricane Governor,” his father was not so lucky in 1992, when Hurricane Andrew devastated south Florida and immediately became an issue in the race for President.
A bungled response by federal emergency officials led to political trouble for the first President Bush, signified by some homemade signs in Florida:
“What do George Bush and Hurricane Andrew have in common? They’re both natural disasters.”
Bush tried to turn things around with an Oval Office address eight days after Andrew hit Florida.
Running against Bush in 1992 was Bill Clinton, who joined Democrats in raising questions about the work of FEMA, which had been roundly criticized a few years earlier in the aftermath of Hurricane Hugo.
Hurricane Andrew wasn’t the reason that President Bush lost his re-election bid, but the storm was a reminder that sometimes on the way to Election Day, there are things that happen which are truly not under the control of the candidates.