Former President Donald Trump has ventured from retirement to participate in rallies and national interviews. But could he soon return to politics as a candidate … for Congress?
In a little-noticed interview with radio host Wayne Allyn Root, the Mar-a-Lago Republican teased a possibility that could disrupt Florida politics. Root, while urging Trump to run for President in 2024, said he should first run for a seat in the U.S. House this midterm cycle.
“Why not run in 2022 for the United States Congress, a House seat in Florida, win big, lead us to a dramatic landslide victory taking the House by 50 seats, and then you become the Speaker of the House, lead the impeachment of (Joe) Biden and start criminal investigations against Biden?” asked Root.
Trump suggested in the interview he has been encouraged by some to run for Senate — a prospect that surely would raise eyebrows in Sen. Marco Rubio’s home. Trump has endorsed Rubio, though. So a congressional bid raises an interesting, if unconventional prospect.
“Your idea might be better,” Trump told Root. “It’s very interesting.”
If that’s not reason for some wild speculation on Florida’s 2022 races, what is?
Sure, Root is a conspiracy theorist best known for spreading birther theories about former President Barack Obama and boasting at a Miami conference about his teenage years beating up Black kids in high school. But he’s right about one thing: The Trump name still holds serious weight in Florida GOP circles.
And the GOP could stand to benefit, particularly in Florida, with Trump’s name on a ballot.
But where would he run?
The most obvious location would be Florida’s 21st Congressional District, where his Mar-a-Lago estate lies and where he’s registered to vote. The problem is, the district leans heavily blue. Cook Political Report recently graded the jurisdiction based on its current lines as a D+8 seat. Despite being Trump’s official home district, the GOP President lost to Biden in the congressional district 58% to 41%.
Incumbent Rep. Lois Frankel, a West Palm Beach Democrat, also won easily over Trump acolyte Laura Loomer, who had Trump’s support and is running again. Sure, the GOP-dominated Legislature could redraw the district to be more GOP-friendly, but it would take some serious map-making magic to make it a pro-Trump seat.
But Florida law has no requirement for Congress members to live in their districts — many don’t. So he could run anywhere.
Of Florida’s 27 congressional districts, 16 are currently represented by Republicans. Frankly, even the longest serving members likely don’t boast the same name recognition as Trump within their own districts. But to date, every one of them is expected to seek reelection. Who knows if one of them would step aside to make room for a former President.
The closest Republican-leaning district to Mar-a-Lago would be Florida’s 18th Congressional District. It’s represented now by Rep. Brian Mast, who, while facing decently funded challenges by Democrats in the last three election cycles, has comfortably held on to his seat, most recently beating Pam Keith by 15 percentage points. Trump also won in CD 18 with 54% to Biden’s 45%. Cook rates this an R+6 district, but that may sell it short.
Could he bump off Mast, a war veteran and double amputee with a strong environmental record, in this district? It’s notable much of the Florida energy for Trump radiates out of Palm Beach, and while only a small part of the county lies in Mast’s district, supporters wouldn’t have to drive far to campaign.
Trump could also look to the south, to the Miami market that over-performed in a way that made Florida one of just three states where Trump improved his 2020 performance over 2016. There are three Miami area seats held by Republicans.
Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, dean of Florida’s delegation, didn’t even face an opponent in 2020. He represents an R+8 district, according to Cook, and it could be made stronger through redistricting. The question here for Trump may be if he could beat a 20-year incumbent revered in the Miami Cuban-American community, with Trump not even knowing a word of Spanish.
The other representatives in the region are both freshmen members, Carlos Giménez and Maria Salazar, but then both represent Democratic-leaning districts and already face a fight for their jobs next year. Why would Trump sign up in a purple district, much less a light blue one?
But he has the entire state to choose from. There’s always the most Republican district in the state. That’s represented now by Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Fort Walton Beach Republican and one of Trump’s most vocal supporters in Washington still. It might be in bad taste for Trump to ask Gaetz to step aside, but then again, Gaetz might have good reason regardless, with a sex scandal and the threat of indictments in the air.
Then there’s the possibility that if Trump doesn’t want to run in a district represented by a Republican already, the Florida Legislature could just draw him a seat. Reapportionment following the Census gives Florida another congressional district, and the GOP-led Legislature will decide where it goes.
Putting any Fair Districts legal mumbo jumbo aside for a second, legislative leaders could draw a district in a red region while doing as little damage as possible to other incumbent’s prospects — perhaps by simply pulling right leaning areas out of districts represented by Democrats now. Trump would be a lock for a nomination with no incumbent in the mix and should coast in a custom-made district.
That all assumes Trump would seriously consider this one-term demotion from President to freshman Congressman, and it speaks nothing of the appetite among GOP members, particularly Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, to actually name Trump as Speaker over individuals who devoted entire careers aspiring to such a post.
But it sure would make for an interesting year in politics, even in a state that never struggles for national attention.