The impending Republican civil war between Donald Trump supporters and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis supporters has started in earnest, and it’s not looking good for for the former president. Ahead of his scheduled rally at Mar-a-Lago on Tuesday evening, in which Trump is expected to announce his 2024 presidential bid, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fl.)—one of the few top Republicans who were set to appear at the rally—shared that he’s no longer able to attend.
Gaetz told reporters on Tuesday afternoon that sudden poor weather conditions wouldn’t allow him to fly down from D.C. to Florida, but that he’ll be at the rally “in spirit.” Only, as a conservative writer at the National Review has since pointed out, the weather is perfectly fair in D.C. and Palm Beach, Florida—so perhaps Gaetz is backing out for another reason?
There are no delays or issues at the DCA airport on Tuesday either:
Just days ago, Gaetz quite literally called Trump “big daddy,” introducing him at a rally stumping for Republicans ahead of the midterms and proclaiming, “It is closing time in these midterm elections and there is no closer in American politics like Big Daddy Don.” (????) The day before the election, Gaetz declared that Trump “should announce [his presidential campaign] tonight,” and said Trump “deserves all the credit for this wave election & announcing tonight he will seize it.” Except, the mythologized Red Wave didn’t materialize.
Election Day carried disastrous results for key Trump-endorsed Republicans: Democrats held the Senate, Democratic losses in the House were mild, and key swing states maintained or elected Democratic governors and legislatures. Meanwhile, DeSantis resoundingly won his reelection, and Florida Republicans made gains in the state legislature. In the aftermath of the GOP’s disastrous showing at the midterms, right-wing media has steadily turned on Trump and called on him to delay his announcement—or not run altogether.
Last week, Trump released a characteristically rant-like statement taking credit for all of DeSantis’ political achievements (which have primarily consisted of worsening a pandemic and bullying LGBTQ kids) and ominously told reporters he knew all of DeSantis’ secrets.
Trump has every reason to feel threatened—DeSantis increasingly looks like the favorite to be Republicans’ presidential nominee come 2024. And while Gaetz has not explicitly chosen a side between the rivals, after years of having all but glued his mouth to Trump’s ass, his hilarious excuse for skipping tonight’s announcement rally speaks volumes.