In 2016 State Representative Matt Caldwell proudly proclaimed himself a “Never Trump” guy, writing in his hometown paper – “I cannot in good conscience support Donald Trump for President.” Two years later, and now a Republican candidate for state Agriculture Commissioner, Caldwell has had an election-year conversion and says he supports the President.
Caldwell told Florida Politics earlier this week that his Never Trump to All About Trump reversal was due to one issue – “My initial hesitation to support President Trump during the election was over his position on abortion.”
That was, however, just one of the items Caldwell stated in the 2016 op-ed in the Fort Myers News-Press. He accused Trump of not supporting the U.S. Constitution and using childish insults in his speeches. Caldwell also said he had “serious reservations about his (Trump’s) judgement” for not renouncing the support of white supremacist David Duke. And finally added “I increasingly believe there isn’t a conservative bone in his body.” Incidentally, the word “abortion” was used in one sentence in the third to last paragraph of the op-ed.
Caldwell also took to social media multiple times to call himself Never Trump.
— Matt Caldwell (@mattcaldwell_fl) March 6, 2016
Caldwell’s change of heart is similar to current Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, now a candidate for governor. Putnam once called Trump “abhorrent and dishonorable” but now embraces him. The reason for both Caldwell and Putnam’s reversal is simple – Trump is popular among Florida Republicans with an approval rating in the mid to upper 80s. It’s a political death sentence for a Republican candidate to be openly hostile to President Trump. Ask Putnam, who went from front runner to soon-to-be political retiree with one simple Trump tweet.
Caldwell has managed to stay out of Trump’s crosshairs, likely because he’s running for a down ticket seat – even though it’s in a state the President considers a second home. And Caldwell hopes it stays that way.