WASHINGTON – Former President Donald Trump heads to Ohio on Saturday for his first campaign-style rally since leaving the White House, an event that could signal how engaged he will be in next year’s congressional elections and possibly offer clues about whether he plans another presidential bid in 2024.
Trump’s event at the Lorain County Fairgrounds in Wellington, about a half-hour southwest of Cleveland, will mark his return to the kind of mass rallies that fueled his White House campaigns. Since he left office in January, Trump’s public appearances have been limited to a handful of speeches before conservative and Republican groups.
Banned from Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms that he used to communicate with his supporters, Trump seems eager to get back on stage.
“Big crowds in the Great State of Ohio this weekend for the Trump rally,” Trump predicted in a statement issued by a political action committee called the Save America PAC.
“See you on Saturday night,” he said. “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN, AGAIN!”
Save America said Trump’s Ohio rally will be the first of many appearances in support of candidates and causes that further his agenda and the accomplishments of his administration. A second rally already is planned for July 3 in Sarasota, Florida.
Political analysts said the events will give Trump a platform to reassert himself as the leader of the Republican Party, promote his conspiracy theories about last November’s election – and just as important to Trump and his bruised ego – settle old scores.
“This is just the kickoff of the Donald Trump grievance tour,” said David Cohen, a political science professor at the University of Akron.
Trump lost the presidency to Joe Biden last November, but he carried Ohio by eight percentage points. Saturday’s rally will be his first trip back to the Buckeye State since the election.
Political scientist Justin Buchler sees no particular relevance to the fact that Trump’s first post-election rally will be in Ohio, which is historically a swing state in presidential elections.
What’s more important, at least to Trump, is that he will be in Lorain County, which he won by three percentage points last November and where he is likely to be surrounded by people who are loyal to him.
“He is not campaigning outside of his comfort zone,” said Buchler, an associate professor of political science at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. “He’s not going to areas where he’s going to be surrounded by a hostile crowd. He is going to go to places where he can be surrounded by people who are his devoted followers.”
Trump also is expected to use his appearance to rail against Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, a northeastern Ohio congressman who was one of 10 Republicans who voted to impeach him for inciting the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, which left five people dead.
The Ohio Republican Party’s governing board voted in May to censure Gonzalez and called on him to resign. Weeks earlier, Trump hit back at Gonzalez by throwing his support to Max Miller, who is running against Gonzalez in next year’s GOP primary. Miller worked for Trump on the campaign trail and in the White House.
Gonzalez, who represents Ohio’s 16th congressional district, is “in big trouble” politically, Cohen said.
“His vote for impeachment – albeit one that was extremely courageous and one that was done without taking politics into account – is one that has hurt him with his own political base,” Cohen said. “And it could cost him his seat.”
Trump’s rally gives him a chance to bolster Miller’s candidacy and remind voters of what he sees as betrayal by Gonzalez and other Republicans who voted to impeach him, such as Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming.
And then there’s Biden.
Trump used his address to the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Florida, in February to attack his successor, repeat unfounded claims about his election loss to Biden and repeatedly hint that he might make another run for the White House in 2024.
Analysts expect a repeat performance in Ohio.
“It’s going to be his greatest hits of grievances,” Cohen said. “At the top of that list, of course, is going to be perpetrating ‘the Big Lie’ and talking about how the 2020 election was stolen by Democrats and that he should still be president.”
The Ohio rally comes just four days before Trump is scheduled to visit the U.S.-Mexico border on June 30 with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. Trump has repeatedly attacked Biden and his border policies and is expected to do so again in Ohio.
Though he’s no longer in office and is not a candidate for public office – at least not officially – Trump’s rally is part of an overall strategy to keep him in the public eye, Cohen said.
“He’s not going away,” he said. “He’s not leaving the political stage.”
Michael Collins covers the White House. Follow him on Twitter @mcollinsNEWS.
Source: USA Today – Breaking News