He may be facing allegations of sex trafficking of a minor, but Rep. Matt Gaetz still has his eye on a 2024 presidential bid — as long as former President Donald Trump does not decide to run.
“I support Donald Trump for president. I’ve directly encouraged him to run and he gives me every indication he will,” the Florida Republican texted The Post Wednesday. “If Trump doesn’t run, I’m sure I could defeat whatever remains of Joe Biden by 2024.”
Gaetz, who said he hasn’t formally launched an exploratory committee, is facing a federal investigation into allegations of sex trafficking of a minor, a sexual relationship with a minor and potential public corruption in addition to a Congressional Ethics investigation. He has vehemently denied any wrongdoing.
Gaetz — who saw a swift rise in national prominence after first being elected in 2016, making a name for himself as one of Trump’s most vocal allies — has found few friends within the House GOP conference, with his penchant for political stunts and embrace of self-promotion proving to be a thorn in leadership’s side.
But his unapologetic brand of conservatism has landed him a devoted fan base among some far-right supporters.
Since the start of the 117th Congress, Gaetz has held several rallies across the country, the first of which took aim at Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) — one of the former president’s most vocal critics in Congress who was recently ousted from her leadership position due to her “Never Trump” stance, who has not ruled out a potential 2024 bid — in her home state in an effort to rally support against her.
He has since teamed up with controversial Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) — who was ousted from her committee assignments following a string of inflammatory comments and recently came under fire for comparing coronavirus restrictions to the Holocaust — on a national “America First Tour.”
The duo recently held rallies at The the Villages in Florida and in Mesa, Ariz., with more on the docket. One source said the events drew in more than 1,000 attendees.
Gaetz — who has more rallies in the works — is also slated to be the keynote speaker at the Nashua GOP “steak out” in New Hampshire, an early primary state and key swing state, in August.
Another source familiar with Gaetz’s thinking noted his entry in the race could be beneficial to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a fellow Trump ally who has been seen as an early front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination should he get in the race.
“He [DeSantis] might like someone else on the debate stage who can torch his opponents and lay down ground cover for him,” the source said, adding that Gaetz “clearly been vetted and smeared like a presidential candidate.”