A Boeing 757 stopped on the runway with “Trump” written on the side in giant gold letters. The speakers blasted Elvis Presley’s Dixie, Village People’s YMCA and Lee Greenwood’s God Bless the USA. donald trump descended the stairs to the enthusiastic cheers and whistles of thousands of supporters.
Officially, the former US president was gathering at a regional airport to support Republican candidates in Tuesday’s midterm elections. Unofficially, he was already accelerating on the track of a 2024 campaign for the White House.
But it wasn’t quite take-off. “I’m not going to say it now,” Trump said, leading a captivated crowd in Latrobe, Pennsylvania to their feet. “So, everyone, I promise you, in the very next – very, very, very short period of time, you’re going to be so happy.”
He would like to do so, he added, but wanted to keep the focus on party candidates. However, a few minutes earlier, he had given the match. Two giant screens displayed a series of polls including one for the Republican primary nomination in 2024 which showed Trump at 71% and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis at 10%. Trump casually but pointedly said, “Ron DeSanctimonious 10 percent.”
The moniker-branding exercise was classic Trump and effectively kicked off a run in which DeSantis is widely seen as his toughest main challenger. On Sunday, Trump will headline a rally in Miami, Florida, in support of Sen. Marco Rubio – but DeSantis, a candidate for re-election as governor, is not invited.
First, on Saturday, Trump was fighting old battles in Pennsylvania, where his predecessor and successor – barack obama and Joe Biden — were also campaigning to tip the scales in a closely contested midterm race that could determine control of the Senate.
Trump’s rally took place at Arnold Palmer Regional Airport, named after a great golfer who learned to fly there. Supporters waved giant “Trump 2024” flags and wore caps and t-shirts with slogans such as “Trump won”, “Lions not sheep” and “I’m a Trump Girl: Get Over It”. There were chants of “USA! USA,” “Let’s go Brandon!”—right-wing code for insulting Biden—and, at the mention of Hillary Clinton, “Lock her up!”
The 45th president had come to throw his weight behind Mehmet OzSenate candidate, and state gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano each hope the former president can help them transform the base.
Talking with his “Trump forces oneand 10 American flags behind him, and two other giant flags hanging from cranes, Trump spoke of a country in decline under Democratic control. It struck familiar notes about rampant crime, an open border, and a war on American energy. He denounced the media as “the enemy of the people”. He lied about “radical left” Democrats cheating to rig the election.
Wearing a red “Make America great again” cap, he argued during a two-hour speech: “If you want to stop the destruction of our country and save the American dream, then this Tuesday you must vote Republican in a way giantess.. There is nothing good to say about what is happening in our country but Tuesday evening I think we will have very good things to say.
Trump is not on the ballot, but somehow he has, once again, made midterm elections all around him. He insisted on playing kingmaker in the Republican primaries, making risky endorsements extreme or inexperienced candidates who threatened to turn the votes into a referendum on his political power.
Trump has indeed suffered setbacks, particularly in Georgia, but claimed the highly symbolic victory of oust Liz Cheneythe vice chairman of the House of Representatives select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol — an exercise he denounced again on Saturday.
Now Trump’s political capital is on the line again at Tuesday’s halfway point, with his favorite candidates – such as Herschel Walker in Georgia and JD Vance in Ohio – facing tough contests that could end in defeat. . But with current polls showing apparent momentum for Republicanshe is likely to score at least a few wins.
Brendan Bucka political strategist and former aide to Republican House Speakers Paul Ryan and John Boehner, said: ‘He tends to look for number one all the time and he’ll take credit for people who win, no matter how precarious of the reality of his involvement in these races.
“He’s going to go ahead regardless. He will be hanging on to whatever happens in Washington over the next two years; it tends to block the sun. It will make governance much more difficult.
Polls suggest that Trump’s choice for governor of Pennsylvania will not succeed. Mastriano is a retired Army colonel and far-right extremist who introduced a failed resolution after Trump lost Pennsylvania in 2020, falsely claiming the Republican-controlled legislature had the power to determine what candidate received the votes of voters in the state. He was seen outside the United States Capitol during the January 6 uprising.
Trailing state Attorney General Josh Shapiro, Mastriano peppered his rally speech with talking points about “culture wars.” “Day one, more critical race theory in our schools,” he said. “Day one, the alarm clock is broke…Day one, no more graphic porn in our schools.”
The Senate race between Oz and John Fettermann, the state’s lieutenant governor, looks tighter. Oz barely won the Republican nomination even after gaining Trump’s endorsement. The former president hopes the famed TV doctor, who counts former first lady Melania Trump among his fans, will help Republicans win over suburban women in the swing state.
Rally participant Bonnie Morgan, 54, acknowledged that Trump’s support of Oz had been controversial. “I’m not sure he’s a conservative but I’m voting for him because I don’t want Fetterman to be a senator,” she said.
Morgan wore a “Women for Trump 2020” cap and, around her shoulders, a flag that read “Trump 2024: Make votes count again.” She said, “He was one of our best presidents, right up there with President Reagan. Things were obviously better under President Trump.
At a rally that culminated with music resembling a QAnon conspiracy movement song, Trump may have claimed to be holding back from announcing a third consecutive presidential bid so as not to distract midterm candidates, but there was little chance of that happening. While expressing their admiration for DeSantis, attendees insisted that — in the event of a confrontation — their loyalty was to Trump.
Terrance Berry, 47, said: “President Trump already has establishment experience. He brought out and brought out the truth about what we are dealing with in politics that we had never seen before. I appreciate Ron DeSantis and other candidates in the future, but I believe President Trump is holding the line right now: he’s pretty much the voice and face of the Republican Party at this point.
“A lot of people agree. If you ask anyone, you’ll probably get more people saying, yes, I still vote for Trump. Even if it was him and DeSantis who were running, we’d vote still for Trump. We’re looking at DeSantis maybe in 2028.”
John Sabo, 43, vice-president of an oil and gas company, agrees: “I would like to see a businessman come back there, someone who is going to be pro-economy, so that we can move forward in the right direction. on that side. I like it because a lot of far left people don’t like it and then you get a lot of the Rino type Republicans or country club Republicans don’t necessarily like it either.
“What I mean, what a lot of people here are talking about, is the working class people who are there to get things done, to move the needle for the country. That, to me, is the call.
Koury Barr, 64, a part-time editor, was also backing a Trump 2024 race. “He’s done great things for this country,” she said. “My God, inflation was under control. Jobs were going crazy. He was just very good for this nation.
Even so, some analysts believe a string of defeats for Trump’s anointed candidates on Tuesday could further weaken his grip on the party, forcing him to reconsider whether a 76-year-old, twice-impeached president will serve a term – in the face of multiple federal, state and congressional investigations – is really his best bet to win back the White House.
Jon Hudaksenior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution think tank in Washington, told the Guardian during a virtual press briefing: “In a weird twist, if you see the Senate seats in Wisconsin, in the ‘Ohio, Pennsylvania, Georgia, go Democrats, which ends up being a very, very, very good day for Ron DeSantis.
“Ron DeSantis can say, ‘Look, the candidates I campaigned for won. I didn’t inject myself into some of these other races like the former president did. And he will have nothing to say to come out of it healthy. Ron DeSantis might want Tim Ryan to win the Ohio Senate race more than Tim Ryan, because it could be very beneficial to him in 2024.”