Matt Gaetz Faces GOP Backlash After Campaign Against Kevin McCarthy

Kevin McCarthy and Matt Gaetz
CHIP SOMODEVILLA/GETTY IMAGES Kevin McC

U.S. Representative Matt Gaetz from Florida has stirred significant controversy within the Republican Party following his pivotal role in removing Kevin McCarthy as House Speaker last year. This action has created a divide among Republican members, contrasting Gaetz’s approach to the party’s direction with that of current House Speaker Mike Johnson from Louisiana and others within the GOP.

The discord extends to strategies concerning party members like Rep. Mike Bost from Illinois, who is associated with the center-right Main Street Caucus and is considered a supportive figure within the GOP leadership. The party’s concerted efforts to back Bost, including a fundraiser organized by Johnson, underscore a preference for members who align with the leadership’s agenda over those aligned with Gaetz’s more confrontational stance.

According to a Sunday CNN report, “multiple GOP sources” say the speaker recently petitioned former President Donald “Trump to back Republican Rep. Mike Bost (R-IL) against his MAGA-aligned primary foe, Darren Bailey, in the southern Illinois district — a sign of how the new speaker is leveraging his relationship with the former president as internal GOP primary battles threaten to reshape the makeup of Congress.”

CNN reported, “As Republicans made the pitch on why they believed Bost — a loyal Trump supporter, committee chairman, and five-term incumbent — deserved the backing of the former president, some hoped another message would effectively be delivered to Gaetz: That the House GOP would not be remade in his mold, a sign of the lingering bad blood more than four months after the Florida Republican led the unprecedented charge to oust Kevin McCarthy from the speakership.”

Rep. Max Miller from Ohio, reflecting on the situation, criticized Gaetz’s tendency to oppose established party lines, even when it involves figures endorsed by former President Trump. The internal GOP conflict is lamented by some, including an Illinois GOP leader who reminisced about the days when Republicans adhered to Ronald Reagan’s principle of not speaking ill of fellow party members.

Gaetz’s campaign against Bost is part of a pattern where he has challenged sitting Republicans, marking the third such instance during his tenure in Congress. Despite the personal and political tensions, Gaetz maintains that his actions are not driven by personal vendettas but by ideological differences, particularly criticizing Bost’s support for Ukraine and alleging undue influence from lobbyists and special interests on his decisions.

As the Republican Party grapples with these internal dynamics, Gaetz emphasizes his preference for verbal engagement over physical confrontation, indicating a continuation of his outspoken advocacy within the party’s ranks. This ongoing saga highlights the ideological rifts and strategic disagreements shaping the future direction of the GOP.

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