Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) on Wednesday stood by his recent endorsement of nemesis Kevin McCarthy for chair of the Republican National Committee — even as some of his Republican colleagues suggested it was a joke.
“The tweet speaks for itself,” Gaetz repeatedly told POLITICO on Wednesday when asked about the endorsement he posted on social media Tuesday night.
The former speaker’s name was floated on X, formerly known as Twitter, as a “dark horse” option to replace Ronna McDaniel as Republican National Committee chair, who is rumored to be stepping down. But Gaetz threw a curveball on Tuesday night after posting a glowing endorsement for McCarthy as RNC chair.
“I fully endorse Kevin McCarthy for RNC Chair. Kevin is well organized and a very high-revenue fundraiser,” Gaetz posted on X. “He will also be well-liked by the RNC Committee.”
It would be a stunning about-face for Gaetz to endorse McCarthy for anything — let alone head of the RNC during an election year. The Florida Republican led the effort to oust McCarthy as speaker last fall, inspiring the California Republican to say Gaetz belongs in jail.
McCarthy did not respond to a request for comment.
But some of Gaetz’s colleagues weren’t convinced the Florida representative’s endorsement was so genuine.
“My initial thought was Matt sure knows how to troll,” fellow Florida Republican Rep. Byron Donalds said in regards to the endorsement. “I thought it was tongue in cheek.”
“I noted a twinge of sarcasm in that comment,” said Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.), who voted with Gaetz to oust McCarthy of the speakership.
What was Gaetz’s rationale for his endorsement? “The RNC Chair doesn’t make any policy decisions, set any agenda, or negotiate against Democrats, ever,” Gaetz said in his post — a hint at some of his reasons for leading the fight to remove McCarthy from the speakership.
He added, “Kevin would be terrific.”
Other Florida Republicans thought, regardless of Gaetz’s intentions, McCarthy would be a great candidate for the position. The former speaker is known for his fundraising abilities — something that brought him to the top House position. Meanwhile many in the party have soured on McDaniel for low fundraising numbers.
“That’s a tip of the hat to Gaetz to get somebody with new energy, new perspective and a proven track record of being just a massive fundraiser,” Rep. Aaron Bean (R-Fla.) said, adding that McCarthy helped him get elected. “If you’re looking for somebody to build a majority, I think Kevin McCarthy would be the guy.”
Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) said McCarthy should do whatever he wants to do next but that he “did a heck of a job as speaker.” Diaz-Balart had not seen the post from Gaetz, but only had one response to the endorsement.
“That’s fascinating,” Diaz-Balart said with a smile “That is fascinating.”
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