Matt Gaetz blames bad weather as he drops out of Trump’s expected 2024 event – despite 80% of flights still on

Florida congressman has campaigned on loyalty to Trump

John Bowden
Washington DC
Tuesday 15 November 2022 20:50 GMT
DeSantis tells critcs to 'check out the scoreboard' after midterm success

Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz will skip Donald Trump’s announcement of his 2024 presidential run, scheduled for later on Tuesday, despite being invited.

Mr Gaetz told the Associated Press on Tuesday that he will be there “in spirit” for the launch of Mr Trump’s third bid for the White House, but will not take the short flight down from Washington DC, citing bad weather.

A quick analysis of flights out of the nation’s capital on Tuesday afternoon indicated that just more than 80 per cent of departures out of Reagan national airport were leaving on time, despite some on-and-off drizzles that swept across the city after lunch.

Mr Gaetz is considered one of the ex-president’s closest allies in the House among its far-right wing; the congressman has appeared alongside Mr Trump at numerous rallies and events. His snub of the president’s 2024 announcement is significant, and comes as an intra-state battle is brewing between Mr Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who is widely considered to be the ex-president’s top rival for the 2024 GOP nomination.

That dynamic puts Mr Gaetz, himself a representative for Florida’s western Panhandle including Pensacola, in an awkward position. The winner of the growing GOP civil war will likely be quite important to Mr Gaetz’s political career, given how closely he’s tied himself to Mr Trump and the Maga movement.

If he were to gamble against Florida’s DeSantis and lose, a prospect all the more likely given the governor’s strong re-election victory on Tuesday, it could mean trouble for his future political ambitions.

The congressman has a short list of political allies thanks to a persistent DoJ sex trafficking investigation that now seems unlikely to envelop him in any charges but did result in the criminal prosecution of a Florida official with whom Mr Gaetz is closely connected, Joel Greenberg. Mr Gaetz has strongly denied wrongdoing and called the investigation a political hit job, despite his ally’s guilty plea in the matter.

Mr Trump has repeatedly swiped at the Florida governor in recent days amid a spate of new speculation regarding his ability to win another GOP primary, particularly against a rising star in the conservative and Maga movements such as Mr DeSantis. That speculation grew much louder in the last week after a number of candidates endorsed by Mr Trump for office thanks to their support of his 2020 election conspiracies came up short and contributed to a surprisingly poor showing for Republicans across the country.

Mr Gaetz won re-election last week by more than 30 points over Rebekah Jones, a Democrat who accused the state’s government of manipulating Covid data.

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