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Trump-DeSantis drama casts shadow over Florida’s House GOP retirement


WASHINGTON — House Republicans are heading to Florida this week for their annual retreat — straight into the belly of the beast of the 2024 presidential primary campaign.

The Sunshine State is home to both former President Donald Trump, who wants his old job back, and Governor Ron DeSantis, the young conservative star who hasn’t announced a presidential candidacy but is making not-so-subtle gestures to walk away from Trump’s GOP nomination.

As their three-day retreat on the Orlando issues kicks off on Sunday, Republicans are desperate to stay out of the growing Trump-vs.-DeSantis melee. They are fighting to retain control of their majority in the House, and are fully aware that a big, protracted, upside-down fight between the two GOP heavyweights could split the 222-member conference and distract them from that goal.

“I could approve in the primary but I didn’t approve. I could approve but I didn’t,” President Kevin McCarthy said last week in Washington.

Its members try to maintain their public goal of maintaining control of the chamber.

“If we don’t have a majority, the president won’t do us any good,” added Rep. Tim Burchett, R-Tenn.

After a better-than-expected performance in November’s midterms, Democrats only have to flip five House seats and keep their current seats in order to win back a majority in 2024. This challenge may be easier for the House Republicans with a strong candidate not named Trump at the top of the ticket. NBC News reported Friday that New York law enforcement officials are preparing for a possible indictment of Trump as soon as this week; Trump on Saturday called on his supporters to “protest” and “take back our nation” if that happens.

At the JW Marriott Grande Lakes in Orlando this week, Republicans will debate their message and governance strategy for the next two years, including how their conference will secure spending cuts without risking a default and keep the American public engaged. in countless surveillance investigations of the administration and the Biden family.

The retreat panel discussions will cover everything from the growing threat from China to border security, energy and the economy.

“House Republicans are thrilled to come together for our annual issues conference, where we will work to fulfill our commitment to America and create a strong economy, a secure nation, a future built on freedom, and a government responsible,” House said. GOP Conference Chairman Elise Stefanik, RN.Y., who is hosting the retreat with the Congressional Institute.

As McCarthy, Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La., and the vast majority of House Republicans choose to avoid the nascent primary fight, more than two dozen House lawmakers are rallying behind Trump, who remains hugely popular among the GOP base and has consistently led his rivals in the polls.

Among those who endorsed Trump are Stefanik, the No. 4 GOP leader; Rep. Richard Hudson of North Carolina, the House GOP campaigns chief this cycle; Representative Ronny Jackson of Texas, Trump’s former White House physician; Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan of Ohio; and Conservative Representatives Matt Gaetz of Florida, Mary Miller of Illinois, Paul Gosar of Arizona, Lauren Boebert of Colorado and Harriet Hageman of Wyoming.

When asked what she thought of DeSantis’ trip to the nation’s first caucus state, Iowa, this month, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., A Top Ally of Trump, replied, “Well, he’s the governor of Florida, so I don’t know what Florida thinks about that. … I approve of President Trump.

On St. Patrick’s Day, Republicans in Florida – including Representatives Brian Mast, Byron Donalds, Kat Cammack, Neal Dunn, Mike Walz, Corey Mills and Jackson – flocked to Trump’s golf resort, Mar-a -Lago, for Palm Beach County GOPs. Lincoln Day Dinner. Trump delivered the keynote address.

But DeSantis caused a stir as he traveled the country on a book tour. And many congressional Republicans have encouraged the former House lawmaker to race against Trump.

Although he hasn’t made any official announcement regarding a White House offer, DeSantis last week resumed his first congressional approval from Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, who recently attended a donor conference for DeSantis in Florida.

DeSantis has “time and again proven his ability to win at the polls. When other Republicans faltered in key races, Governor DeSantis provided a positive vision for the future with careful, conservative action,” Roy said in his endorsement. “The result was crystal clear: Republicans enjoyed spectacular historic performances across the state.”

A former Republican Florida House lawmaker who served with DeSantis said Trump remains incredibly popular in his district, but noted DeSantis has received praise from Republican politicians and voters for his aggressive efforts to end restrictions on Covid in the State.

“He’s shown leadership in our state, and people are responding to that,” the former lawmaker said. “Where there were Trump signs, there are DeSantis signs.”

Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.