It's no secret among political insiders that there's a love/hate relationship with the former Trump co-chair, with the debate escalating to new heights over the last couple of weeks. Recent turmoil and rumors of infighting within the Florida GOP have intensified this political tug-of-warm for Florida's future, with many speculating whether or not Gruters is the right person to lead Florida into 2020.
Some Republicans view Gruters' anti-discrimination bill as the catalyst in this ongoing narrative. In reality, the Republicans who called out the Senator for failing conservatives were quick to contract amnesia after Gruters drew high praise from GOP leaders and officials for passing a bill that banned sanctuary cities in Florida, restoring the rule of law in the state.
That quickly changed, however, after Gruters postponed his planned immigration tour following backlash from many progressives around the state. The tour was intended to be a followup to Gruters successful sanctuary cities bill and was to be used to gauge public opinion on the divisive issue in the buildup to the 2020 legislative session.
With a new reason to hold Gruters' feet to the fire, Republicans who had cold feet on the lawmaker pounced following the news of the Trump campaign severing ties with Florida adviser Susie Wiles, leaving the president without a top adviser in a major battleground state going into the 2020 election.
Wiles' pedigree has been touted by many officials around the state, including Gruters who famously called Wiles a “superstar” and said he expected her to be an “integral part of the team" heading into 2020.
The move was made at the behest of Gov. Ron DeSantis in an attempt to install his own allies within the state party. Wiles' departure followed weeks of behind-the-scenes drama that many within DeSantis' inner circle — chief of staff Shane Strum and his wife, Casey DeSantis — viewed as a chink in Florida's armor.
While turnover is a common occurrence in the political arena, many of these disenfranchised Republicans saw DeSantis involvement and Gruters' comments as eyeopening, leading to rampant gossip among the state senator's most ardent detractors.
In reality, the Wiles' coup was the underpinning of what was to come in this "Bachelor"-esque saga.
The debate surrounding Gruters' loyalty reached a fever-pitch recently, with reports surfacing that DeSantis, the GOP's de facto leader and Trump's primary point of contact, was entertaining the idea of cutting Gruters' salary to give the party’s new executive director, Peter O’Rourke, a pay raise.
O'Rourke was "hand-picked" by Trump to lead Florida, replacing the embattled Jennifer Locetta, a Wiles ally.
With all of this unfolding almost simultaneously, many critics believe that Gruters is now in the hot seat.
Gruters, however, doesn't agree with the sentiments, dismissing the claim that his job, as well as his salary, could be cut. Gruters said the entire account is overblown, stating, “It’s much ado about nothing."
“The governor and I have a great relationship. We’re moving the party forward. Everything is great... there are people out there who want to create something out of nothing but the governor and I have a strong relationship. I am the governor’s chairman." Gruters told the Herald Tribune.
Gruters has made it clear that everyone within the party is on the same page, promising that the Florida GOP is "united." On Sunday, he continued to display his support for the president and his agenda, retweeting a message from Trump's twitter feed.
"The @FloridaGOP loves you and we will deliver for you next year," Gruters said on Twitter late Sunday, referencing Trump's tweet regarding the president's approval rating among Republicans.