Donald Trump returned to the national political stage Saturday night at the county fairgrounds in the small town of Wellington, Ohio, as residents lined the streets and decorated their homes in red, white and blue to celebrate the former US president’s arrival.
Lorraine County definitely falls into Donald Trump’s command room. “That’s where they love it,” said Doug Deakin, the Republican chairman of nearby Wayne County. “Whether they’re historical Democrats or historical Republicans or historical people who haven’t sounded crap and haven’t voted hard before, they love it.”
Political activists said Trump’s decision to hold him first The post-White House rally in Lorraine County — an area west of Cleveland that includes both old steelworks towns and swathes of rural farmland — was an obvious choice given the affinity of local white working-class voters to the former president. Despite losing the national election, Trump won Ohio in the Midwest by eight points over Joe Biden. He was the first Republican to win Lorain County since Ronald Reagan in 1984.
Thousands of the former president’s fans thronged the fairgrounds, decked out in pro-Trump merchandise and eager to tell reporters that the 2020 election had been stolen from their favorite politician, who pleaded with him to run again for the White House in 2024.
The one-time reality TV star, who has not ruled out another bid for the White House and is overwhelmingly popular in most national polls of Republican voters, celebrated with crowd chants of “Trump won!” and “four more years”.
But he also had another reason to travel to Northeast Ohio: revenge.
Trump shared the podium in Wellington with Max Miller, the former White House aide who launched a preliminary Republican challenge against Anthony Gonzalez, the current local congressman who was one of the 10 Republican House members who voted to impeach him for inciting the deadly January 6 rebellion. The US Capitol Building. Trump was later disowned In a Senate trial after only seven Republicans in the upper house voted to convict him.
“Max’s opponent is a guy named Anthony Gonzalez,” Trump said to the jeers of the crowd, calling the congressman a “cool Reno” — a Republican in name only.
“That’s not why I’m doing this, but I just thought I’d say, it’s a character trait that’s no good… he’s a sham, he’s a fake Republican, and he’s a disgrace to your state. He’s not the candidate you want to represent the Republican Party.”
Trump’s comments highlighted sharp divisions in the the Republican Party He wrestles with how to move forward under the Biden administration — and has indicated the role the former president intends to play in the midterms next year, when Republicans look to reclaim control of both houses of Congress.
He has already endorsed several conservative candidates loyal to him — moves that allies say will energize the Republican base and critics warn that could alienate moderate voters who want to leave the Trump-era turmoil in the back mirror.
Supporting more centrist voters is seen as crucial in statewide races across the country, including in Ohio, where Republican Governor Mike DeWine will seek re-election next year and a large number of Republicans are currently vying for the party’s nomination to replace him. Retired Senator replaced. Rob Portman. Neither DeWine nor Portman appeared alongside Trump on Saturday, citing personal commitments.
There are Republicans who would prefer it [Trump] “He’s going to be a kingmaker and not the king himself in the future,” said Brian Williams, the former chair of the Ohio Republican Party. But he added, “It’s not very many people who think Trump should step down from the podium.”
Alex Roth, a Republican adviser who works on campaigns in northeastern Ohio, said most GOP candidates are now struggling to establish their affinity for Trump.
“Republicans who are running in the primaries now seek to show their loyalty to the president, and that shapes the way we campaign,” he said.
The desire to woo Trump was palpable Saturday night, with all the Republican contenders for the Senate seat in Portman in attendance.
Trump has not yet endorsed a candidate in that race, but the campaign of Jane Timken, the former head of state, distributed leaflets calling her “the only pro-Trump, America First candidate.” At one point during his 90-minute free speech, the former president asked the crowd to cheer on the candidate they wanted him to support.
He is not without his critics in the Republican establishment in Ohio. John Kasich, the state’s former Republican governor and one-time presidential candidate, endorsed Biden ahead of last year’s election.
But few Ohio Republicans are willing to sign up for criticism of the former president, illustrating the long shadow he continues to cast over the party and its future.
Brad Kastan, a longtime Republican donor based in Columbus, is a rare exception.
“For conservatives and Republicans to succeed, we can’t count on any one person or character, and I worry if we get too caught up in what sometimes causes division . . . we will end up with Georgia in our hands,” he said, referring to the once Republican southern state which had right Now Two Democratic Senators.
“The party has to take into account the fact that voters aren’t just voting because of President Trump. They’re voting because of the things he’s done. I think that message is kind of lost,” said a Republican activist, who asked not to be named.
Another GOP source, who asked not to be identified, said they are not a fan of Trump. But they acknowledged that the former president would inevitably play a large role in Republican politics.
“Will you ask the doctor what he thinks of the femur?” they asked. Trump is there. It is part of the political reality of both Republicans and Democrats. The phenomenon it creates is just something we have to deal with. You can’t remove people’s thighs.”
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