Matt Gaetz just positioned himself for Florida governor

Rep. Matt Gaetz speaks with reporters outside the U.S. Capitol.

MIAMI — When Reps. Matt Gaetz and Byron Donalds staked out opposing positions on shutting down the federal government, they framed it as a battle over spending.

On ousting Speaker Kevin McCarthy, the 2 Florida Republicans disagreed over whether or not it was a referendum on McCarthy’s management or a distraction from pressing Home enterprise.

What they didn’t say is that the divergent views had been additionally probably concerning the subsequent marketing campaign for governor of Florida.

Gaetz and Donalds are two of essentially the most distinguished Republicans anticipated to run to succeed Gov. Ron DeSantis in 2026, a distant contest that’s already churning up political battle on the state and nationwide stage. They’ve positioned themselves otherwise in Congress: each as stern conservatives, however with Gaetz as a rebellious gadfly and Donalds as a extra standard hard-liner, a dynamic that helped form the shutdown battle.

Gaetz emerged Tuesday, after efficiently booting McCarthy from the speakership, as some of the influential Republicans within the nation — the chief of the primary profitable Home coup. And as he eyes Florida’s governorship, his shadow feud may rapidly flip Washington dynamics into fodder for a Tallahassee marketing campaign struggle.

“We’re breaking the fever,” Gaetz declared outdoors the U.S. Capitol shortly after the vote Tuesday.

His transfer, nevertheless, was met with speedy backlash from some Florida Republicans, together with Republican Rep. John Rutherford, who tore into Gaetz for “driving our nation towards the brink of one other authorities shutdown, all for clicks and money and a lift in his nationwide profile.”

Donalds, in a short interview this week on the Capitol, described himself as “tactically completely different” from Gaetz and denied that their variations are actually concerning the governor’s race, saying 2026 is way sooner or later and that “every of those years is like canine years.”

He additionally confirmed he’s fascinated about operating for governor, whether or not or not Gaetz runs.

However congressional rivals are only one group looking for the Florida governor’s mansion. Gaetz and Donalds, who each endorsed former President Donald Trump, might face competitors from not less than two DeSantis allies, Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez and Ashley Moody, Florida’s lawyer normal.

Nuñez, who’s the highest-ranking Latina in Florida and served as DeSantis’ operating mate in 2018 and 2022, endorsed the governor for president in Might. And DeSantis returned the favor, saying Nuñez would offer continuity within the governor’s workplace if he wins the presidency and takes workplace in 2025.

Rounding out the possible candidates are Rep. Mike Waltz (R-Fla.) and Jimmy Patronis, the GOP Florida chief monetary officer.

That there’s a lot early curiosity within the race speaks to Florida’s outsize position in nationwide politics, the place native competitions can have nationwide implications, together with sending the federal government right into a shutdown. Past the congressional conflicts, main the third most populous state within the nation offers governors an enormous platform for his or her coverage and political objectives — DeSantis famously constructed his nationwide status by governing by way of the pandemic and reshaping the state’s colleges, well being agenda and financial system, serving to flip Florida extra crimson. And whereas no Florida governor has been elected president —” — six have tried within the final 50 years.

A few of the scrambling over the race may be traced to Gaetz. The pugilistic Trump ally was the focus in January throughout McCarthy’s speakership battle within the Home, resulting in hypothesis that he was of a doable run for governor.

That’s solely elevated over the previous couple of weeks as Gaetz led the Home conservative revolt towards McCarthy and agitated for a authorities shutdown. Rank-and-file Home Republicans view Gaetz’s current strikes, partly, as an try to spice up his political standing again house.

However Gaetz dismissed the hype round his doable 2026 gubernatorial run, saying in a short interview earlier this week that he has “no plans to run for governor,” although admitted he thought “Tallahassee is much more pretty than Washington.”

Throughout a in August, Gaetz didn’t push again when Donald Trump Jr. and his girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle, mentioned they’d each endorse him for governor.

“I might positively take pleasure in that job a lot,” Gaetz replied. “I might by no means go away it if I ever received that chance.”

And Gaetz has been spending extra time in Florida, mentioned a former GOP operative, granted anonymity to guard their work relationships.

“He’s displaying up at extra Florida occasions than we’ve seen him at within the final six years — soccer video games, the [Florida] Capitol — we didn’t see him for years and all of the sudden he’s received a presence once more,” the particular person mentioned.

Donald Trump additionally added to the curiosity when he was requested about Gaetz’s doable bid throughout an interview with the conservative Nationwide Pulse, praising the lawmaker as a “nice man, an exquisite particular person.” The Biden marketing campaign rapidly seized on the remark and on social media. True to type, Gaetz responded to the Biden marketing campaign’s put up on X, saying: “Cease….you guys are making me blush.”

Whereas finally backing the shutdown, Donalds broke with Gaetz in the course of the funding battle in September when Donalds pushed for a short-term spending patch that will have diminished most non-defense spending and notably didn’t embrace help for Ukraine. Donalds additionally rejected the try to oust McCarthy, saying it’s the improper time and that Republicans want to remain unified with a view to safe the border and reduce spending.

Whereas the congressional maneuvering has uncovered cleaving among the many candidates, so too has their allegiance to Trump and DeSantis. The congressional Republicans all endorsed Trump for president whereas Moody and Nuñez are carefully tied to DeSantis. Patronis, who was first appointed to his place by former Florida Gov. Rick Scott, has not endorsed but within the presidential race.

Trump’s marketing campaign didn’t reply to questions on how he was serious about the Florida governor’s race. However his affect in Florida stretches again years to DeSantis’ 2018 gubernatorial run, when Trump’s backing supplied a vital push towards DeSantis’ victory within the major.

“The final time it mattered, it actually mattered,” mentioned Rep. Carlos Giménez (R-Fla.), referring to Trump’s endorsement of DeSantis. He predicted {that a} 2024 win from Trump would have an enormous affect on the Florida race, and mentioned his endorsement would nonetheless give any candidate a big enhance even when he loses.

However the identical applies to DeSantis. Brett Doster, a Tallahassee-based Republican guide who labored on former Gov. Jeb Bush’s gubernatorial run and as senior adviser in Florida to Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential marketing campaign, mentioned DeSantis would nonetheless be in a robust place as governor if he returns house from the 2024 marketing campaign path.

“He may have an outsized curiosity in his legacy,” Doster predicted.

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