Way too many politicians have tried to be another Donald Trump when there isn’t another Donald Trump.
Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., is among those and it just isn’t working.
The ambitious politician, who insists he is a true conservative, is reaching out to the worst Democrats for bedfellows. These Democrats include Reps. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, D-N.Y., and Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., among others, in a power play to take out House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.
Gaetz has gone to war with McCarthy and it’s not entirely clear why. McCarthy had a spending bill mostly crafted by House conservatives that would have funded the government with increased border security and scaled back spending. Passing that through the House could have given Republicans some leverage in the Senate. But Gaetz and a handful of others said no.
Matt Gaetz the Ouster
So, McCarthy pushed a bill that relied heavily on Democrats to avert a shutdown.
This is not really a defense of McCarthy as Speaker. The verdict is still out on that.
But, when a human Twitter feed on the Right – like Gaetz – is willing to team up with human Twitter feeds on the Left – in AOC and Swalwell – one really must question how principled the stand is among any of these publicity-obsessed politicians. (I know, I know. It’s no longer Twitter. But human X feed still sounds weird and Twitter remains in the lexicon.)
Gaetz is very likely going to lose this bid to dethrone McCarthy. But keep in mind, Gaetz lost the first round to oust then-Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., back in February 2021. By May 2021, enough Republicans migrated over to Gaetz’s side to oust the former vice president’s daughter from House GOP leadership.
So, don’t count him out. Gaetz may be annoying—even sort of creepy. But if his goal is getting TV and social media attention – and of course it is – he’s been highly successful.
Then again, Cheney had a lot of self-inflicted wounds that McCarthy won’t likely see repeated.
Aspiring MAGA Leader
There are plenty of legit true believers on both the Right and the Left that often frustrate their party leadership. That’s OK. The clubby uni-party go-along to get-along D.C. crowd has delivered many problems.
But Gaetz just doesn’t seem genuine. He’s expected to run for governor of Florida in 2026. And given his staunch loyalty to Trump and their apparent common belief of no such thing as bad publicity, he will have the backing in the primary of the former president – possibly the incumbent president by that time.
Regardless of whether Trump wins in 2024, he will still likely control the GOP nominating process, which will be enough to push Gaetz through a primary.
Gaetz undoubtedly envisions using the Florida governorship as a stepping stone to the White House, to be more like his hero.
But his visions of becoming the new hero of MAGA will almost certainly crash and burn.
Florida hasn’t elected a Democrat governor since 1994. But a Gaetz candidacy will be the red line preventing what seemed like Florida solidly moving red for eternity.
Gaetz will never win a statewide election. In fact, having him at the top of the ticket in the Sunshine State could be enough to make it a swing state again.
That will of course kill his presidential ambitions. It could be even bigger. A Gaetz defeat in November 2026 turning Florida blue would be a deeply devastating blow to the MAGA movement just two years after a second Trump defeat.
Barbara Joanna Lucas is a writer and researcher in Northern Virginia. She has been a healthcare professional, political blogger, is a proud dog mom, and news junkie.
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