Florida congressional Republicans mostly seek to stay out of Trump vs. DeSantis fight

Florida Congressional Republicans appear to be staying clear of the apparent rift between former President Donald Trump and Governor Ron DeSantis as speculation continues to mount over the prospect of DeSantis launching a 2024 presidential bid.

Florida Republicans made gains in Congress in the midterm elections, jumping from 16 U.S. House GOP members from Florida to 20 post-election. That, coupled with Republicans Sens. Rick Scott and Marco Rubio, mean the Republicans have 22 GOP congressmen representing Florida in Congress. But the current battle between Trump and DeSantis puts them in a unique and perhaps uncomfortable position, as some expect them to pick a side and reveal their loyalties.

However, that’s not happening – at least not en masse. While Representatives Matt Gaetz and Anna Paulina Luna have openly backed Trump, Political booklet reports that most Republicans on Florida’s GOP delegation are not taking sides as tensions between the former president and governor mount.

Rep. Neal Dunn (R-FL). (Home TV via AP)

Representative Neal Dunn (R-FL), for example, said policy that he has decided who he will approve of but chooses to keep it to himself for now.

“Oh wow. You’re really trying to put me in a situation here,” he said, adding, “I don’t need to make myself a target for a year.


Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL). (Patrick Semansky-Pool/Getty Images)

Senator Rick Scott also provided a non-response, noting that he doesn’t like to endorse the primaries. However, he alluded to what policy described as a “frosty” relationship with the governor.

“DeSantis doesn’t talk to me, so I don’t know anything about DeSantis. I’m talking to Trump. I wish him good luck,” Scott said.

Meanwhile, Rep. Aaron Bean also refuses to openly choose a side, despite what he has said in the past:

Representative Aaron Bean called the choice between Trump and DeSantis “Sophie’s choice” – a reference to the film and novel where the Nazis force a woman to choose which of her children will die. (It’s worth pointing out here that during a Florida Republican Party debate last year, Bean was asked the same question and sided with DeSantis.)

However, even Florida Republicans who revealed their preferences made it clear that they liked both Trump and DeSantis.

“I love DeSantis,” Rep. Luna said. “I don’t think anyone can ever compete with him as governor and I will be sad to see if he leaves early. I hope he doesn’t, but I love them both.

Anna Paulina Luna, Republican candidate for the United States House of Representatives, speaks before President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump during a campaign rally Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020 in Tampa, Florida. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

Anna Paulina Luna (R-FL). (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

During a CPAC interview, Rep. Gaetz also clarified that he liked both potential nominees, but argued that Trump had the “magic for this moment.”

“I support President Trump,” he said. “I worked very closely with Ron DeSantis. I worked very hard to get him elected governor, and I want Ron DeSantis’ eight years as governor of the state of Florida.


Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL). (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

“If we do it right, we’ll get the best of both worlds,” he continued. “We will have four years of Donald Trump’s presidency in his second term. Then we may have Ron DeSantis presidency after that. But I think Trump has the magic for this moment, and it seems like a ready crowd for the MAGA movement.

All eyes then turn to the Florida Republican Party, but the organization won’t make a choice either — at least not under the leadership of Chairman Christian Ziegler.

While he praised both men – considering Trump “one of the greatest presidents we’ve ever had, if not the greatest” and DeSantis as perhaps one of the greatest governors in the country story – he said the Florida GOP will remain neutral throughout the primary battle as the base decides who should be the nominee in 2024.

“We’re going to support both men,” Ziegler said during a March appearance on Breitbart News Saturday.

“We will remain neutral. And we’re going to allow the base to choose, and then whoever they choose, we’re going to make sure they get elected, whether it’s President Trump [or] Governor DeSantis. We’re going to let the base choose,” he said, adding that the Florida GOP “will work hard to get them elected after that” when the primary is over.

As Breitbart News reported:

He added an additional perspective, reminiscent of the crowded GOP field in 2016, which included the likes of Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio in the mix. That year, the Florida base came out overwhelmingly for Trump. However, if the Florida GOP had gone all-in for any of these other candidates in the primary, it would have resulted in a major disconnect with voters, who chose Trump.

And if the party were to get involved in 2016, I promise you it probably would have been for one of them [Bush or Rubio]. And we’ve seen the base — 66 of Florida’s 67 counties — go with Trump. So there would have been a big disconnect. That’s why I’m a fan of the party that stays neutral,” he said, explaining that the party will be ready the “moment” after the primary to go fight for the candidate.

Despite looming speculation, DeSantis has yet to reveal his political aspirations, remaining continually coy and dismissing inquiries into his relationship with the former president. Asked about his presidential plans in February, he shyly told a reporter: “Wouldn’t you like to know?

However, his pro-police tour and recent national book tour have added to speculation that he is seriously considering a run for the White House in 2024, possibly serving as a catalyst for the pro-Trump super PAC Make America Great. Again Inc. filing an ethics complaint against DeSantis, accusing him of running a “phantom presidential campaign.” DeSantis’ administration dismissed the complaint as nothing more than a “politically motivated” attack.


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