Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene in conspiracy laden double act designed to delight Florida’s most famous retiree – Donald Trump

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Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., left, and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., address attendees of a rally, Friday, May 7, 2021, in The Villages, Fla. (AP)
Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., left, and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., address attendees of a rally, Friday, May 7, 2021, in The Villages, Fla. (AP)

The Villages in Florida – one of the biggest retirement communities in the world – is known as a place for fresh starts and new beginnings.

So if Marjorie Taylor Greene and Matt Gaetz ever tire of politics, or if the world of politics gets tired of them, it may be they could perform there as double act, in front of elderly, easy-to-please conservatives, quick to laugh, and eager to welcome them back.

That certainly appeared to be the message from when the two Republicans appeared there on Friday night, kicking off what has been called the “America First Tour”. There was lots of shouting and lots of applause, and lots of cheering of Donald Trump.

“I’ve just got to check something, I just want to make sure I’m in the right place,” said Taylor, who represents Georgia’s 14th congressional. “Tell me, who is your president?”

When the crowd responded loudly that it was Trump, she said: “That’s my president, too. I just want to be sure I’m with friends and family, not with antifa or BLM or Democratic socialists.”

Greene, who was stripped of her position on a congressional committee for her promotion of QAnon and other conspiracy theories, was quick to boast about her outsider status. “They don’t like me much,” she said of both Democrats and Republicans in Washington.

Yet she said that mattered little because she had gone to the nation’s capital to represent hardworking Americans who were ready for action.

When Gaetz took to the stage, after Greene spoke for about 40 minutes, he also claimed to be an outsider.

“I’m a marked man in Congress,” said Gaetz, who represents Florida’s panhandle.

“I’m a cancelled man in some corners of the internet. I may be a wanted man by the deep state, but I’m a Florida man and it’s good to be home!”

Gaetz did not say whether when he described himself as a marked man, he was referring to a Justice Department investigation into whether he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl.

The inquiry is also examining claims he paid for her to travel with him. He has denied the accusations.

“Today, we send a strong message to the weak establishment in both parties, America first isn’t going away. We’re going on tour,” he said.

The 150,000-strong population of The Villages has long leaned conservative, and it has become a crucial stopping off point for politicians seeking the support of retirees in the battleground state of Florida.

And on Friday night, it felt very much as though Greene and Taylor were trying very hard to please and impress one Florida retiree in particular – Donald Trump, who has been holed up at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach since leaving the White House.

“You’re the lucky ones you got it and there are more than 1,000 people outside that wanted to be here. Two of them might have been antifa,” said Gaetz, who even claimed he and Greene were combatting the “deep state in the Post Office”.

“I don’t think any of the people on the Republican side, running for president in 2024 could draw a crowd this big if their name wasn’t Donald Trump.”

Among all the Republican members of either chambers of Congress, it would be hard to find two politicians more strident in their defence of Trump, or the trashing of his opponents, buying into and promoting his false claim the election was rigged.

Presumably, they recognise that at least for now, Trump’s brand of wild politics is the future of the Republican Party, and he will continue to hold great influence over it – and them.

So while the speeches ticked the boxes required for anyone seeking traction in the party right now – guns, God, America being the greatest nation on earth – both speakers were quick to mention Trump’s name as often as they could, as they outlined plans for their tour of events

“We love America so much, and we will not wave the flag of surrender, in the face of the Democrats, the socialists, the deep state or the establishment, America is too precious. We love her too much and we will never stop fighting for her,” said Gaetz.

“America’s greatest president, and the undisputed leader of the Republican Party Donald J Trump, he might join us on a few, or we might join him.”

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