Friday, Florida Republicans removed a loyalty oath that had been necessary for candidates to be on the presidential primary ballot. This action was demanded by supporters of former President Donald Trump, who is still the party’s undisputed leader even in the state that is home to his main competitor.
The fact that Trump can force his way on Florida’s Republican leaders is embarrassing for Governor Ron DeSantis, whose supporters tried fruitlessly to uphold the loyalty oath.
The initiative to revoke the loyalty oath was spearheaded by Joe Gruters, a Sarasota state legislator and former Florida GOP chair who has embraced Donald Trump.
According to Gruters, it was approved by “overwhelming voice vote.”
This year, the Republican Party of Florida made it a condition for GOP presidential candidates to declare their support for the party’s ultimate nominee in order to be included on the ballot for the March 19 primary.
The Republican National Committee proposed a similar vow as a prerequisite for taking part in the primary debates, but Trump rejected it.
“Why would I sign it?” you may ask. remarked Trump on Newsmax. “I can think of three or four candidates for president that I would not back. There’s a problem there, then.
Despite the fact that DeSantis has been the state’s governor since 2019, winning the loyalty pledge debate is another indication that Trump has more influence over Florida Republicans than DeSantis.
The majority of the state’s Republican congressional delegation has endorsed Trump, despite the fact that DeSantis has the support of many Republicans in the legislature. A Florida Atlantic University poll from July also found that Trump had a 20 percentage point advantage over DeSantis among GOP voters in Florida.
In July, Kevin Wagner, a political science professor at Florida Atlantic University, stated that “this steadfast support continues to bolster Trump’s strong and steady position within the party.”
Gruters predicted that if the Florida GOP attempted to remove Trump from the ballot because he failed to sign the loyalty oath, there would be a backlash.
I believe the party acted appropriately, Gruters remarked. We don’t want to put unnecessary obstacles in the way of qualified candidates for the presidency, and I believe this just goes to show how much the Republican Party of Florida and its supporters like the outgoing president.
He continued, “The president is fighting many different battles on many different fronts; it shouldn’t be with the party.”
DeSantis, who was widely seen as the most formidable potential Republican opponent to Trump, has seen a substantial decline in the polls since his campaign’s debut in May. In the GOP primary, according to national polling, DeSantis is trailing Trump by a wide margin, and in areas with early voting, he is in a similar position.
But given that Florida is the state where GOP supporters are most familiar with DeSantis, Trump’s victory there is particularly noteworthy. Losing Florida would probably put an end to his presidential bid.
Party activists defying him on the loyalty oath may indicate that DeSantis’ base of support in Florida is eroding.