The Republican Party of Florida has voted against requiring candidates running in the state’s presidential primary to pledge their support to the eventual nominee, including former President Donald Trump. This decision ensures that Trump will not have to sign an oath in order to compete in the primary alongside Governor Ron DeSantis.
This move is seen as a victory for Trump, who has previously refused to sign a similar pledge required for candidates to participate in national GOP debates. The pledge requirement was only recently instituted by the state party in May.
Since then, Trump has maintained his dominance over the Republican field, while DeSantis, whom he considers his chief rival, has struggled and had to lay off dozens of staffers. The rivalry between Trump and DeSantis is particularly intense in their shared home state of Florida.
The oath requirement would have compelled primary candidates to support the eventual nominee in order to be placed on the ballot. If Trump had been excluded from the primary ballot, he may not have been able to run on the Republican line in the November general election.
State Senator Joe Gruters, a longtime Trump supporter, requested the removal of the requirement in a party meeting on Friday. Gruters, one of the few Republican Florida lawmakers to back Trump over DeSantis, thought that the requirement gave the impression of favoring a particular candidate. He described the situation as a “proxy battle” between the “Trump world” and the “DeSantis world.”
Trump’s campaign has not issued an immediate response to the vote, but members of his team have shared posts on social media portraying the vote as a win for Trump.
Gruters argued that the requirement would also violate Republican National Committee rules, which prohibit states from changing the nomination process within two years of an election. However, RNC rules allow individual state parties until October 1 to decide their plans for nominating delegates who will formally choose a presidential nominee.
“When people say, ‘Well, Trump doesn’t want to sign the loyalty oath,’ it’s not about that. It’s about the party putting up artificial roadblocks that didn’t exist four months ago,” Gruters said.
Associated Press writers Adriana Gomez Licon in Miami and Michelle Price in New York contributed to this report.