Gaetz ousted McCarthy. Now he’s moving on to another House GOP target.
Matt Gaetz led the GOP push that ejected Kevin McCarthy from the speakership. Now he’s turning to his next target: Booting another fellow Republican from the House entirely.
The Florida Republican is slated to headline a campaign rally next week with Darren Bailey, the GOP primary rival of Rep. Mike Bost (R-Ill.), chair of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee. Bost is a longtime foe of Gaetz’s inside the GOP conference, but the rally amounts to an escalation of their mutual disdain.
“I helped defeat Liz Cheney when she faced a strong challenger in her race, and I’m confident we can do the same when we hit the trail in Southern Illinois,” Gaetz said in a statement first provided to POLITICO, while praising Bailey as “an upgrade over the lackluster Republican incumbent.”
The bad blood between Gaetz and Bost is well-known in the House, spilling into view during a House GOP meeting last year where Bost exploded in rage at Gaetz for trying to address colleagues after engineering McCarthy’s firing. That clash culminated with Bost, a Marine veteran, lunging towards Gaetz after the firebrand ignored his cries to sit down.
Bost, meanwhile, appears unfazed by Gaetz’s visit to his backyard.
Asked if he considered Gaetz a threat, Bost replied: “I never considered Matt a threat. I considered him an ass, but never a threat.”
Bost will be the third sitting House Republican whom Gaetz has actively campaigned against. The Floridian previously held rallies against former Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) before the party excommunicated her for criticizing Donald Trump and his influence on GOP leaders.
Gaetz also worked to unseat a fellow Floridian, former Rep. Ross Spano (R), whose reelection bid in 2020 was hurt by a Justice Department investigation into how he financed his 2018 campaign.
Bost, however, is a tougher enemy for Gaetz. Unlike Cheney and Spano, he isn’t plagued by a federal probe or feuds with Trump. He has a strong conservative record, and many of his GOP colleagues will be eager to try to protect him.
The Illinoisan has sought to argue that he is someone who can get things done, unlike his challenger. He’s gotten a boost from McCarthy, who has previously visited Illinois to show support.
Bost’s southern Illinois district is deep red. Trump carried it by 43 points in 2020, so the winner of the primary is all but certain to coast to victory in the fall. And Gaetz isn’t the only incumbent wading into the intraparty contest; Rep. Mary Miller (R-Ill.) is supporting Bailey, after Bost supported former Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) during a Miller-Davis primary fight in 2022.
Bailey is a far-right state senator who lost the Illinois governor’s race by 13 points in 2022 and adopts a staunchly populist message. Democrats were so eager to run against him in 2022’s gubernatorial race that the Democratic Governors Association spent money to help him win the GOP primary.
Ally Mutnick contributed.
Correction: An earlier edition of this post incorrectly identified the timing of Gaetz’s appearance for Bailey.