Outgoing President Donald Trump might be on the way out of the White House but his allies are riding high in the Sunshine State’s GOP ranks.
After a pro-Trump violent mob stormed the Capitol two weeks ago, leading to the deaths of five people including a Capitol police officer, the departing president’s standing has declined in the polls. With the U.S. House having impeached Trump for a second time, the Republican ranks on Capitol Hill are cracking though probably not enough to convict him in a trial in the U.S. Senate.
Even before the Trump mob attacked the Capitol, the president was clearly losing ground with the GOP. Over Christmas, Trump danced all around the budget, including the latest coronavirus stimulus, complaining about it after his own team approved it, before finally agreeing to it. Griping about how the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) did not include reforms to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act to regulate social media–not exactly a core issue of the NDAA–and how it changed the names of military bases honoring Confederate leaders, Trump vetoed it only for Congress to overwhelming override it.
Trump, who always portrayed himself as the master of the “art of the deal,” was taken to school by outgoing U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. In the meantime, Trump continued to insist the presidential election was fixed while the Democrats flipped two Senate seats in Georgia and, this week, the COVID-19 death toll reached 400,000. Trump also lost much of his social media platform after the riot as Twitter, Facebook and other companies removed him from their sites.
Still, Trump’s hold on the GOP, especially in Florida, should not be underestimated even as he is departing the White House on Wednesday.
This past weekend, state Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, a longtime Trump ally, was re-elected as chairman of the Republican Party of Florida (RPOF) without opposition. Gruters looked ahead to 2022 when Gov. Ron DeSantis, another Trump ally, is running for a second term.
“I’m thankful and humbled that the membership would choose me to be chairman for another term,” Gruters said. “I look forward to working alongside the best governor in the nation in Governor Ron DeSantis to ensure his re-election and successful mid-term elections. We are more united In Florida than ever.”
“Republicans around the country are looking at the state of Florida for leadership,” DeSantis said. “We will be undeterred in our defense of freedom — the freedom of Floridians to work, to send their kids to in-person school, and to enjoy the blessings of a beautiful state. With your help and hard work, we will be successful today, tomorrow and into the future.”
In the meantime, the Trump hold on the Florida GOP could be growing as buzz is building that the president’s daughter could challenge U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., in the primaries come 2022. Back in 2016, Trump and Rubio exchanged heavy fire. Trump knocked Rubio out of the race by crushing him in his own backyard, routing the senator in the Florida primary. Rubio bounced back later that year, easily holding off a challenge in the Senate primary and keeping his seat for the Republicans in November. This past weekend, Rubio offered Trump some praise.
“After Donald Trump, the Republican Party will never be the same and that is a good thing,” Rubio said.
Add in Florida Republicans like U.S. Reps. Matt Gaetz and Greg Steube, two of the outgoing president’s biggest fans on Capitol Hill, and the GOP in the Sunshine State remains largely behind Trump even as he, despite all his protests and complaints, leaves the White House.
Kevin Derby wrote this analysis. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.