Loyalty Oath Showdown: How Trump Outplayed DeSantis in Florida

Toni Koraza

Republicans in Florida removed a loyalty pledge necessary for candidates to appear on the presidential primary ballot. 

Former President Donald Trump's followers demanded this action and showed the extent to which Trump still controls the party, even in a state where he faces off against his main competitor.

DeSantis, whose supporters tried fruitlessly to uphold the loyalty oath, is embarrassed by Trump's ability to influence Florida Republican leaders.

The initiative to revoke the loyalty oath was spearheaded by Joe Gruters, a Sarasota state legislator and former Florida GOP chair who has embraced Trump.

Gruters reported that it was approved by an "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 to be included on the ballot for the March 19 primary.

The Republican National Committee proposed a similar vow as a prerequisite for participating in the primary debates, but Trump rejected it.

Despite DeSantis being 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 DeSantis's support for 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.

Gruters predicted that there would be a backlash if the Florida GOP attempted to remove Trump from the ballot because he failed to sign the loyalty oath.

"We do not want to create unnecessary roadblocks for qualified candidates for president, and I think once again this shows the Republican Party of Florida and the base loves the former president," he said.

What are your thoughts on DeSantis's position as Florida's governor in light of Trump's continued influence within the state's Republican Party?

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