Donald Trump holds his first rally since leaving office.
Donald Trump is back: The former president of the United States held his first full-fledged political rally since leaving office. He ruthlessly criticized current President Joe Biden, berated opponents within the Republican Party and hinted that the phrase “President Donald Trump” may once again become reality. Against the backdrop of a decline in his approval rating from within the party, the beginning of a new tour for the uncrowned king of the Republican Party may become the next phase in the battle for her soul.
One of the Ohio rally’s participants told Politico she expected her favorite politician to talk about “the same stuff — just more of it.” The beloved politician did not disappoint; he voiced almost the same talking points as usual. “We won the election twice and it’s possible we’ll have to win it a third time. It’s possible,” he assured the crowd, promising that Republicans would “take back the House, we will take back the Senate, and we will take back America, and we will do it soon.” The ex-president, however, did not outline specific plans for his own political future.
Much more important to him, it seemed, was the past; the very nature of the rally highlighted this. Trump traveled to Ohio for a reason — to endorse Republican Max Miller (a “wonderful person” and “patriot”), who is challenging Republican Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, one of 10 House Republicans who at one time voted to impeach Trump. The ex-president promised that the rivals would pay for their decision.
But these future elections, again, did not seem to interest him as actively as the past election: Trump spoke in particular detail about voting in the election that, according to him, he rightfully won. “This was the scam of the century and this was the crime of the century,” Trump argued. “[T] he 2020 presidential election, was rigged. We won the election in a landslide,” he told the crowd, which began to chant in a standing ovation: “Trump won!” There was a lot in the 90-minute speech — Trump recalled Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s mask, undocumented migrants, and Israel.
The atmosphere was reminiscent of campaign rallies of previous years. Trump’s old glory days were noticeable in the stage design, the selection of energetic, upbeat songs, and even the crowd chanting the phrase “Lock her up!” which was directed toward Trump’s 2016 opponent, Hillary Clinton. The only thing missing was Air Force One in the background, which was absent for reasons unrecognized by many attendees. In a recent poll by the University of Monmouth, only 36% of Republicans believe that Biden won the presidential election fair and square, while 57% of them believe that the real president is Trump.
Meanwhile, “real president” Trump, has no intention of stopping there: His rally in Iowa was just the beginning of another tour. It is expected that he will soon travel to the U.S.-Mexico border (where he will yet again denounce Biden’s immigration policies), and will also hold a rally in Florida in honor of Independence Day.
Republicans in effect have made Trumpism their one and only doctrine, purging the ranks of the party and expelling those politicians disloyal to the former president. The clearest example of this was the removal of a prominent opponent of Trump from her position as the chair of the House Republican Conference — Rep. Liz Cheney.
Trump, in turn, promised to help Republican candidates in the elections, campaigning for them and “lending” his high personal reputation to ordinary American conservatives. This political barter worked, even despite the kind of political reclusiveness that Trump moved toward after the election, effectively locking himself up with his golf clubs and rarely appearing in public. Nonetheless, a notable NBC News poll conducted in late April showed the start of an emerging shift that jeopardizes the entire agreement: For the first time since the beginning of 2019 (when this poll even began at all), a large proportion of Republicans (50%) surveyed support the party more than they support Trump (44%).
Therefore, a new series of rallies and public speeches could be the beginning of a new phase in the battle for the party: Trump will fight to remain a chief and guiding force, and “anti-Trump” people (such as Sen. Mitt Romney or Cheney) can only try to convince ordinary voters to put party interests at the forefront.