Florida Republican Party Votes to Remove Loyalty Pledge Amidst Trump-DeSantis Feud

ORLANDO, Fla. — In a culmination of weeks of intense lobbying and a heated ideological tussle, the Republican Party of Florida, during a closed-door session on Friday night, made the consequential decision to eliminate a controversial loyalty pledge. This pledge had garnered the support of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis but faced staunch opposition from former President Donald Trump. The pledge in question would have mandated GOP presidential candidates to pledge their support for the eventual party nominee to secure a spot on the state's primary ballot, scheduled for March 19.

Although the loyalty oath's language had been approved by the party back in May, it subsequently encountered resistance from Trump and his loyalists. Given Trump's commanding lead in all public opinion polls, his team expressed reluctance to engage in activities such as signing loyalty pledges, which would commit him to supporting the eventual Republican presidential nominee.

Following the pivotal decision, Florida Senator Joe Gruters, a former party chair, expressed his satisfaction, stating, "Common sense prevailed at the Republican Party of Florida tonight." He had proposed the motion to abolish the loyalty pledge and reported that the voice vote in favor of its removal was an "overwhelming win."

In response to the vote, DeSantis' campaign spokesman, Bryan Griffin, expressed disappointment, saying, "We believe anyone who wanted to run for president as a Republican should be willing to pledge their support for our eventual nominee. It is surprising that anyone interested in seeing the defeat of Joe Biden in 2024 would disagree." Griffin added, "Once Ron DeSantis secures the party's nomination, we hope everyone in the field will join him in that fight."

The clash between DeSantis and Trump's political teams over the loyalty pledge marked a protracted battle, as the governor, who has gained national prominence within Republican circles in recent years, generally received strong support from Florida GOP leaders. Consequently, the outcome of the loyalty oath vote stands out as a notable setback for DeSantis.

The crucial vote transpired during the quarterly party meeting held in Orlando, generating substantial anticipation throughout the two-day event. In addition to the meeting, the party's annual Statesman's Dinner was a prominent feature, with conservative commentator Ben Shapiro and Florida Senator Rick Scott serving as speakers.

The impending vote on the loyalty pledge commanded significant attention and had been the subject of extensive lobbying efforts by supporters of both Trump and DeSantis. It marked the conclusion of an all-day party board meeting that extended past 8 p.m.

As part of Trump's campaign to influence the outcome, he extended invitations to Florida GOP officials for a November 9 dinner event at Mar-a-Lago. This event was widely seen as a display of strength by Trump's team, particularly in response to DeSantis supporters who appeared to be losing ground in their efforts to garner party backing for the governor.

The Republican Party of Florida, whose leaders had pledged to remain neutral in the presidential primary, declined to provide a comment regarding the vote.

The hours preceding the vote were marked by political theatrics, as Trump supporters led by Laura Loomer, a conservative provocateur, attempted to gain access to the room where the vote was to take place. However, party leaders had previously indicated that the meeting would not be open to the press or the public.

Loomer and her group of Trump supporters were ultimately escorted out of the conference room where the vote occurred, prompting her to voice objections. "Prior to the motion being made, the room was packed with Trump supporters who were quietly sitting in their chairs to support the removal of the rule change to revoke the loyalty oath," she shared on the social media platform X just before her removal.

This vote marks another setback for DeSantis in his presidential campaign against Trump, who enjoys a substantial lead in public opinion polls. However, the significance of this particular vote is amplified by the fact that it was carried out by DeSantis' own Republican Party, and it transpired in his home state.