Matt Gaetz Floats Florida's Ron DeSantis as 2024 Presidential Candidate

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) hinted at a potential 2024 presidential bid by Republican Florida Governor Ron DeSantis during a Fox News appearance on Sunday.

The Florida congressman's comments followed a Fox interview on the same day with DeSantis, who accused President Joe Biden of "targeting" his state for its "thriving" housing sector and economy.

The governor's criticism was aimed at Biden Administration officials considering pre-flight testing and domestic air travel restrictions because of the COVID pandemic.

Gaetz, a Republican who represents Florida's 1st district, said he is "proud" of DeSantis and implied the Biden Administration is attempting to disparage the governor in anticipation of his potential candidacy in 2024.

"What Ron DeSantis didn't say, which is the truth, is that the Biden folks know that if Donald Trump is not the candidate in 2024, the leader of our movement will be Ron DeSantis," Gaetz told Fox.

"He is a strong potential presidential candidate in 2024, the Biden team knows that, and so they're trying to somehow cast aspersions on the Florida experience because you know what, throughout America, there's a lot of Florida envy right now."

Gaetz echoed DeSantis' statements on Florida's economic "prosperity" during the pandemic, saying the state is "attractive to people who are having to endure lockdowns in other parts of America."

DeSantis has not publicly indicated he would run in the 2024 elections so far and has instead focused on reelection in 2022. Newsweek has contacted DeSantis and the White House for comment.

The governor, who is expressly anti-lockdown, announced a "Seniors First" approach to administering COVID-19 vaccines in Florida.

People aged 65 years and older, long-term care facility residents and staff, frontline health workers, and people deemed extremely vulnerable to the virus are among those eligible to be vaccinated in the state.

However, CNN last month reported the vaccine rollout in some parts of Florida saw elderly patients waiting in long lines, at times overnight, in order to be inoculated.

Florida's Department of Health reported a total of 2,355,792 people were vaccinated in the state. Seniors aged 65 years and up accounted for 66 percent of those fully immunized.

During his Fox interview, Gaetz hailed Florida's rejection of a lockdown strategy, saying the state "focused on the vulnerable while allowing our people to live freely."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Florida has experienced a surge in cases of the virus' highly transmissible B.1.1.7 variant, also known as the U.K. strain.

The CDC found Florida to have the most B.1.1.7 variant cases in the U.S., with 379 of the country's 1,173 cases recorded in the state. The variant's spread in Florida reportedly factored into the White House mulling over domestic travel restrictions.

Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at press conference
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks during a press conference about the opening of a COVID-19 vaccination site at the Hard Rock Stadium on January 06, 2021 in Miami Gardens, Florida. Congressman Matt Gaetz hinted at the governor's potential presidential bid in 2024. Joe Raedle/Getty Images