Hurricane Michael and the reaction of the federal and state secretary to the disaster could determine the outcome of Florida's highly-fought Senate race as Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William Nelson Hurricane Michael runs to Florida races Senate goes home to campaign after deal with Trump nominees Dems struggles to mobilize latino voters for midterms MORE (Fla.), One of the most vulnerable Democrats of the Chamber, and the struggle of Gov. Rick Scott (R) to gain political honor for the relief effort.
The storm gives Nelson and Scott the chance to play a leading role on television, while afflicted residents of Florida's panhandle look forward to the government's help to rebuild their lives.
But a failed delivery or an appearance of failure can damage one or both candidates if the campaign enters its final phase.
"It's a big problem," said Alex Patton, a Florida-based GOP consultant. "It is a very emotional time, most Floridians relate to it. & # 39;
"It's a ton of free airtime during a very emotional time, you can look like, talk like and be a leader," he added. "People remember this stuff."
Democratic governor candidate Andrew Gillum, who is the mayor of Tallahassee, has been the most interviewed on television in recent days, according to advisers in the state, who is likely to help his campaign for governor.
Scott, as a seated governor, also had a lot of free airtime, while Nelson, who had been in Washington until Wednesday, received less. But the Democrats say that being most on television is not necessarily useful if voters are disappointed about the relief effort.
"There is certainly an advantage in attracting government-issued polo shirts and windbreakers and standing behind the stage and telling people you care about the safety of their families, but there are two sides to it," Ben said. Pollara, a Florida-based Democratic consultant and fundraiser.
Pollara noted that Scott was criticized after Hurricane Irma when he did not respond quickly to messages requesting help on his mobile by employees in a nursing home where 14 elderly people eventually died due to poor conditions.
"It's probably a net positive for Rick Scott and Andrew Gillum this week when the rest of the political world is shutting down and they're looking every day on TV as strong leaders, but I think it's premature to say that this is a a decisive moment in the campaign will not yet know how the storm will ultimately be politically defined, "Pollara said.
Democrats say that Nelson, who leads Scott with a few points in recent polls, can score big political points by quickly making a Republican pledge for substantial relief from the battered panhandle in Florida.
"He desperately needs this," said a Democratic Assistant about Nelson. "He needs something good to get out of here."
Senate Democrats increasingly see Nelson as their most vulnerable seated partner after Sen. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampCornyn: "All the money in the world & # 39; Rourke does not help to win Texas Senate home to campaign after deal with Trump nominees Native American tribe slams Supreme Court ruling maintaining the north Dakota voter ID law MORE (D-N.D.), who in her last polls averaged 9 points behind her challenger.
Nelson missed the votes on Thursday while traveling to Florida to help his constituents deal with the aftermath of the storm.
"This is the biggest, the hardest one that has certainly touched the panhandle of Florida in my life," Nelson told Judy Woodruff from Panama City Beach. "It is now time for the federal government to help everyone."
"They will need a lot of help here for a long time," he added.
The Congress is trying to put aside traditional biased politics in responding to a national disaster on the scale of Hurricane Michael, which laid a path of destruction by Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas, which are still recovering from the devastating effects of the hurricane Florence.
The Senate collapsed on Thursday for the remainder of October and Congress is not expected to be back in session before the 6 November elections, meaning that a federal disaster response package will wait until December's lame-duck session or next year.
Democrats say it would be a great boost for Nelson to get a promise for emergency funding from GOP leaders before the election day, but from now on it does not look like he will get it.
Republican leaders said this week that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has enough money to pay the initial relief effort. They say it will take time to assess the destruction, likely delaying a congress action for a few months.
"The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) currently has sufficient resources for an immediate response to disasters thanks to previous action by Congress," Rep. Rodney FrelinghuysenRodney Procter Frelinghuysen On The Money: Shares fall for the second day as Trump & # 39; loco & # 39; blame Fed | Mulvaney calls for unity at the consumer agency Pelosi says that Dems will go after tax return Trump GOP President: FEMA has enough money for Hurricane Michael NJ Republican has plans to win in November: Embrace Trump MORE (R-N.J.), The Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said Thursday afternoon in a statement.
Frelinghuysen said that his committee is closely monitoring the funding levels of FEMA.
"Should the need arise, my committee is ready to act quickly," he said, adding that "our thoughts are with those affected by this and other hurricanes."
A GOP employee said that FEMA currently has $ 25 billion available in its accounts.
However, the damage caused by Michael could well exceed that amount.
Hurricane Harvey, which hit Texas and Louisiana in 2017, caused $ 125 billion in damage, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Hurricane Maria, who devastated Puerto Rico last year, caused damage of $ 90 billion.
GOP leaders from the Senate say they will wait for states hit by Hurricane Michael to assess the damage before they continue.
"They have to do an assessment first and then we'll know for sure that we'll treat this as soon as they're done," Senate Republican Whip said. John CornynJohn CornynCornyn: "All the money in the world & # 39; O & # 39; Rourke will not help win Texas Kavanaugh tensions linger after bitter fight Senate goes home after campaign against Trump nominees MORE (R-Texas), adding that he does not know the timing of conference action.
Senate Republican Conference Chairman John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneGOP chairman: FEMA has enough money for hurricane Michael Senate Republicans demand that Google transfer the memo with the advice to hide data vulnerability GOP charges the lame one-day agenda as House control-eaters MORE (R-S.D.) Said that Florida and other states will inform Congress if more money is needed and that money currently in the FEMA accounts would be sufficient for the time being.
"It will all be determined what the needs are and the states will probably give us a direction," he said. "But I assume that FEMA has sufficient resources to be able to respond."
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyOn The Money: Trump signs bill, causing shutdown | House votes to extend individual tax reductions Tesla shares the jump after SEC saddles his musk with fraud Trump signs up, preventing shutdown Five coverings on the testimony of Kavanaugh and Ford MORE (R-Ala.) Said that the work on an emergency aid package will not start immediately.
"We will do what we have to do, but I think they will have to assess some damage," he said, noting that FEMA "always has some money."
He said that an aid package should be "likely after the election", noting that the Senate was likely to recess until Thursday after the election.
Hours later, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellElection Countdown: O & # 39; Rourke delivers massive M-yield Agreements on judges let senators return to the course | Hurricane puts candidates from Florida in the spotlight Adelson spends a lot of money saving GOP in the meantime Kavanaugh will likely not weaken GOP voters before the midterms, says pollster Warren responds to & # 39; arrogant woman & # 39; insult: & # 39; Was I tough against John Kelly? … Betting that I & # 39; MORE & # 39; used to be (R-Ky.) And Democratic Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis Schumer Cited takeaway at the last Senate debate in Tennessee Schumer tears Trump & Medicare for everyone & # 39; as & # 39; smears & sabotage & # 39; GOP senator suspects that Schumer's abandonment of the Ford letter has MORE (N.Y.) signed a deal to vote on 15 nominees and leave the city until the week after the election day.
"We will do what we have to do," Shelby added. "We always respond to earthquakes and disasters of any kind, droughts, I do not think you can just run outside and just say that we have an open end. & # 39;
"We need guidelines, we really need proof of what they need," he said.
Shelby said that he would first expect a request for disaster relief from the White House before Congress begins an additional spending package.
A spokeswoman for Shelby said: "The president will work closely with the leadership and the southeastern state delegations on the best way forward to ensure that we meet the needs of those affected."
North and South Carolina received a $ 1.68 billion first infusion into the Federal Aviation Administration's authorization law, which the Senate had adopted earlier this month, to pay for the first repair round regarding Hurricane Florence, a note from GOP.