Among the Republican power brokers in Florida, it is a foregone conclusion that Matt Gaetz will make a run at succeeding Ron DeSantis as governor of the state in 2026, NBC News reported Monday.
And he would do so presumably with the backing of former President Donald Trump, following in the footsteps of then Rep. DeSantis, R-Fla., himself in 2018. DeSantis terms out as governor in 2026.
"He's 100% in," one Florida Republican operative told NBC News. "I think Gaetz is an instant front-runner, and from what I hear he's already won the Trump primary."
According to the report, Gaetz was "holding court" with a Who's-Who of state Republicans on Sunday night in Tallahassee at a designation ceremony for state Rep. Danny Perez, set to become the new speaker of the Florida House.
"Many did encourage me to consider running for governor one day," Gaetz told NBC News. "But we have an outstanding governor who will be in that position through 2026. … My only political focus right now is Trump 2024."
A Trump bump, provided he gets it, would certainly put Gaetz at the front of what's expected to be a crowded GOP field to replace DeSantis.
Fellow Florida Rep. Byron Donalds — another Trump ally — is also eyeing a bid. State Agriculture Commissioner Wilton Simpson, Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, fellow U.S. Rep. Mike Waltz and state Attorney General Ashley Moody are also expected to vie for the GOP nod. Jeanette Nunez, Florida's first Hispanic female lieutenant governor, would have a built-in platform should she decide to run.
"He will be running in a large field. He could win with 30%," Florida trial attorney and Democratic donor John Morgan told NBC. "Trump's endorsement alone gets him that."
Trump has not weighed in on the 2026 Florida gubernatorial race and his campaign declined to comment to NBC about it.
The DeSantis-Trump alliance fell apart once the former decided to take on the latter for the Republican nomination for president in 2024, a move that earned him the nickname "DeSanctimonious" from the some-time Florida resident.
Gaetz was a top adviser to DeSantis' campaign ahead of his maiden run in 2018, but they, too, have since had a falling out.
Mark Swanson ✉
Mark Swanson, a Newsmax writer and editor, has nearly three decades of experience covering news, culture and politics.
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