While many consider him the front runner in a field that has yet to develop, others see him as a problem to the GOP framework,
Back in November, Watkins released a critical statement regarding Republican leadership in the Panhandle. In it, Watkins rebuked the job GOP officials have done in the Panhandle, claiming he intended on changing that.
“I don’t think we have had the kind of leadership coming out of the Panhandle that we need, and I intend on doing everything I can to change that,” Watkins said about GOP leaders.
The statement was largely ignored by the media, with very few paying much attention to it. But on Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, one of DeSantis' closest allies, retweeted the statement saying he was "unimpressed with a guy who insults a very productive legislative delegation."
Gaetz would go on to offer a stern warning, saying he'd be keeping a close eye on Watkins' race.
Gaetz, a household name in the Republican Party, is a close friend to DeSantis. Throughout the 2018 midterms, he attended numerous rallies around the SunShine State for DeSantis, stumping and delivering speeches for the former U.S. Representative. His presence and endorsement were instrumental in helping DeSantis defeat Democratic candidate Andrew Gillum.
Aside from DeSantis, Gaetz is extremely tight with President Trump. His loyalty to the president is known throughout Florida, and their friendship was on full display when he accompanied the president to many of the rallies around the state.
With Joe Gruters set to become the next RPOF Chairman, Florida has a solid base of Trump supporters that are ready to turn the state red in 2020. Being on this team's bad side could not only ruin one's election, it could derail their entire political career.
Starting off on a bad foot is not something that Watkins' had intended to do. Upsetting those who helped deliver Florida for Trump in 2016 could prove costly in his race for State House.