Florida’s old GOP governor and new GOP governor appear to be on a collision course.

Scores of 11th-hour appointments by outgoing Gov. Rick Scott. Roadblocks for the new transition team. A rival inaugural ball.

The contentious handoff of the Florida governor’s office from Scott to fellow Republican Ron DeSantis has cast a shadow over their relationship, raising questions about whether the two prominent swing-state Republicans are on a collision course as a result of their future ambitions for the White House.

Tensions between the old governor and the new governor had been simmering under the surface for more than a month, but it burst into public view Tuesday after Scott abruptly left his successor’s inauguration ceremony, leading DeSantis to ad lib the parts of his speech in which he planned to personally thank Scott.

DeSantis’ team knew Scott would need to leave the ceremony at some point to attend his own Senate swearing in ceremony in Washington but were surprised when the former governor didn’t stay for the speech. DeSantis loyalists were already miffed that Scott’s political committee decided to throw a ball in Washington to celebrate his installation in the U.S. Senate that overlapped with the traditional inaugural celebration for the governor in Tallahassee.

Those slights followed two other perceived insults Friday, when the governor made more than 70 appointments without consulting DeSantis.

Earlier that day, DeSantis and his wife, Casey, were informed by Scott that the governor was going to throw a party in the governor’s mansion Monday, the day before the inauguration — even though the governor-elect, his wife and two small children had just moved into the Colonial Revival brick home.

“It shows how inconsiderate the Scott administration was,” said Congressman Matt Gaetz, a Republican who served with DeSantis in Congress and then led the governor-elect’s transition team.

Gaetz said the DeSantis family only learned at the last minute of the party plans at the mansion, when Scott told them, “Oh, by the way, I’m going to have a party with 48 people at the mansion on Monday.”

Scott’s behavior has so mystified Republican insiders that it’s led to a parlor game of guessing the root cause. One top GOP consultant in Tallahassee guessed it was a combination of Scott’s aloof personality, the stress of the Senate election recount, and a dwindling staff in Tallahassee.

“When Scott has a campaign or a goal he’s incredibly disciplined, but he’s not nimble and here he didn’t have a plan so it all fell apart,” said the consultant, who didn’t want to go on record speculating about Scott’s mindset.

Others in Tallahassee saw the outline of a coming 2024 clash. The governorship of Florida is a good springboard to the White House, and each man might believe that Florida isn’t big enough for the two of them — just as it wasn’t for former Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio in the 2016 GOP primary.

“It’s pretty clear that both of these men think they’re going to be president, one by being Donald Trump’s vice governor and the other with Scrooge McDuck money,” said Kevin Cate, a Democrat and adviser to the unsuccessful 2018 Democratic nominee for governor, Andrew Gillum. “Scott has always been politically awkward and it’s no shock he’d be awkward heading out the door, even to someone from his own party.”

DeSantis has already said he will “rescind” some of the appointments from the “lame-duck” Scott.

While the tension between the two camps was a new dynamic in the relationship between Scott and DeSantis, it’s not new to other Republicans.

Scott surprisingly declined to leave office a few days early to be inaugurated with the rest of the freshman class in the U.S. Senate, costing him seniority in the chamber and robbing his own lieutenant governor, Carlos Lopez-Cantera, of the opportunity to serve as acting governor for a few days.

The snub stood out compared to the last time a Florida governor, Bob Graham, won a Senate seat — he made sure to give his No. 2, Wayne Mixson, the keys to the governor’s office for about a week and the honor of getting his portrait painted and hung in the Florida Capitol hall with that of other governors.

The decision to not leave office early, which Scott said was to “fight for Florida families every single day of his term,” also meant Scott and DeSantis would have their swearing in events on the same day, which put some Republicans in a politically dicey position. They were forced to choose between attending the inaugural ball of the Florida’s newest United States senator and outgoing two-term governor, or the event for the state’s new governor.

Scott tried to quietly nudge some Florida consultants and lobbyists to attend his event, insiders say.

“The word went out from Scott World — not explicitly but we understood what he meant — if you go to DeSantis’ inaugural, you’re dead to Rick,” said one GOP consultant. “You’re finished.”

“I was not asked. I’m a Tallahassee lobbyist, not a Washington lobbyist,” said a veteran lobbyist. “But I know for a fact others were presented with what looked like an ultimatum.”

It’s not the first time Scott has ruffled political feathers within his own party.

In 2012, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s team groused that Scott was trampling over his message by repeatedly talking about how great the Florida economy was at the same time that Romney was arguing that things were horrible under then-President Obama. Two years ago, when Lopez-Cantera briefly ran for Rubio’s seat when Rubio decided to run for president, Scott’s consulting team opted to work for the lieutenant governor’s rival in the GOP race, developer Carlos Beruff.

After Rubio lost his bid for president and decided to run for reelection, every Republican in the race dropped out except for Beruff, whose decision to stay in was seen as an affront among the state Republican establishment and Rubio backers.

Yet Beruff’s name resurfaced Friday when Scott appointed him to the Florida Wildlife Commission, a coveted spot that’s reserved for top donors and supporters of a sitting governor. DeSantis is mulling rescinding the appointment.

One top supporter of Rubio, speaking anonymously out of respect for the senior senator, said the Beruff appointment by Scott was “a sign of his pettiness.”

“I used to think it was Scott’s team, but it’s Scott,” the source said. “They will go out of their way and spend inordinate energy to pick petty squabbles and fight battles that only exist in Scott’s head. No other senator holds an inaugural ball in D.C. But Scott did. He thinks he’s still like a governor. But what he’s going to learn in the U.S. Senate is he’s largely irrelevant as the most junior senator.”

Scott’s other last-minute appointments included putting his chief of staff Brad Piepenbrink to the Florida Greenways and Council. Piepenbrink, who couldn’t be reached, has been with Scott for years and was his top staffer until the very end. In addition, Scott appointed five judges on Monday just seven hours before he official left office.

Chris Hartline, a Scott spokesman, downplayed the notion of a rift between Scott and DeSantis, and said the outgoing governor had every right to make the dozens of last-minute appointments.

“Senator Scott and Governor DeSantis have a great working relationship,” he said. “Then-Governor Scott made a variety of appointments for positions that came open during his term, which is his job. If folks have an issue with that, so be it. But Senator Scott looks forward to partnering with Governor DeSantis to fight for Florida families.”

But Rep. Gaetz said Scott went further than that.

The last-minute party announcement at the governor’s mansion, Gaetz said, was emblematic of the way Scott’s team dealt with DeSantis and the transition team, which “was frustrated from the most significant issues to the most menial.”

Gaetz said the relationship began to deteriorate soon after Election Day, when both DeSantis and Scott squeaked by their respective opponents by such a small margin that it led to recounts in both races. DeSantis’s lead was bigger and he became the de facto governor-elect after an automatic recount. Scott, nursing a smaller lead, had to wait longer as a manual recount wrapped up.

While the ballots were being counted and recounted, Scott’s team was stonewalling the DeSantis team’s requests.

“After the election, we were looking for space to set up to start the transition and Rick Scott would not allow us to set up in the Capitol until there was greater certainty on his election,” Gaetz said. “He wanted to be there and in charge during this a moment of uncertainty for him. We weren’t trying to upstage him. We were just trying to go get in some offices and get some computers and paper and go forward with our agency head interviews.”

Gaetz said the administration wasn’t always eager to help out when it came to “simple stuff, like a matrix of appointments. On a lot of document requests we would make, they would give us the documents they wanted us to have. But if something was important for us to have, it was never a priority.”

Alexandra Glorioso contributed to this report.

Sharing is caring!