Florida Republicans voted on Saturday to endorse Donald Trump for the GOP’s presidential nod – an unusual step for the party given that the former president still faces a primary challenge, but one that reflects the widely held belief that Trump has already run away with the nomination.
The endorsement came amid a flurry of votes by members of Florida’s Republican Party during their annual meeting in Wesley Chapel. Members also moved to elect state Sen. Joe Gruters, a former Florida GOP chairman, as the party’s new national committeeman and formally oppose a proposed ballot amendment to enshrine abortion rights into the state constitution.
The vote to back Trump for the Republican presidential nod throws the party’s symbolic weight behind the former president’s bid to return to the White House. It also underscores the extent to which the GOP’s rank-and-file members remain loyal to Trump even after his unsuccessful campaign for reelection in 2020.
Florida state Rep. Dean Black, the chairman of the Duval County Republican Party, made the motion to endorse Trump, saying that it was time for the party to unite around a single candidate.
“The Primary is over!” Black wrote on X, the social media site previously known as Twitter. “Now is the time to unite and deliver victory in Florida for @realDonaldTrump!”
In the lead-up to the vote, there was little doubt that it would pass. Evan Power, the newly elected chairman of the Florida GOP, previously threw his support behind the measure, saying that Trump’s victories in the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary made it clear that Republican voters stood firmly behind the former president.
Power also noted that three of Florida’s most influential Republicans – Gov. Ron DeSantis and U.S. Sens. Rick Scott and Marco Rubio – had already endorsed Trump, arguing that the former president is the candidate best positioned to take on President Joe Biden in November.
DeSantis was one of several Republicans who unsuccessfully challenged Trump for the GOP nomination. He ended his campaign last month after finishing in a distant second place behind Trump in the Iowa caucuses.
“It is time for Republicans to come together and put 100% of our focus on defeating Joe Biden and his failed administration in November,” Power said in a statement.
While Trump faces an ostensible primary challenge from former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, he’s won every nominating contest so far and is far ahead of Haley in the race for delegates, who will choose the nominee at the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee, Wis. this summer.
Although Trump has incumbent-like status within the GOP, it’s unusual for a party committee to endorse a nominee for the presidency in a contested primary before its state holds its nominating contest.
The Florida Republican primary is scheduled for March 19. Haley, who is the last remaining Republican challenger to Trump, has signaled that she will compete in the primary through at least super Tuesday on March 5, when more than a dozen states will hold GOP nominating contests.