Looking tanned and rested, former President Donald J. Trump addressed a boisterous crowd of thousands at the National Fairgrounds in Perry, Georgia. In kicking off his “Save America” rally, Trump came out swinging, “We are going to take back our country from these lunatics,” he declared as the crowd roared. Appearing before a racially diverse group – several “Blacks for Trump” t-shirts were visible behind the podium – the 45th president was in vintage form.
Mr. Trump quickly launched into the immigration crisis, saying, “Our country is being turned into a migrant camp – other than that, how are things going?” Then he thundered, “This is an invasion,” and the crowd responded by chanting, “We want Trump!”
In reflecting on the Biden administration, the former president intoned, “The world is eating our lunch. They are laughing at us. I’ll tell you when I was president; the world respected us.” Then he turned to the withdrawal from Afghanistan, pointedly criticizing his successor by saying, “He humiliated our nation,” and referring to the Taliban as “evil and angry.”
Next, Trump dove into his reason for the gathering: politics. Engaging rally-goers, the former president called on the people of Georgia to “resoundingly defeat” the Democrats in the 2022 midterm elections.
The Elephant in the Room
The elephant – notoriously known for its long memory and as a symbol of the Republican Party – is a fitting image for Mr. Trump. He hasn’t forgotten those he considers traitors and is actively hunting them down one by one. In working to unseat those in the GOP who crossed him last time and replace them with candidates who share his political ideology, he does two things: He tests his personal strength at the ballot box and improves his political aspirations for the office of the presidency come 2024.
While the former president appears to be a man with a plan, some in the Republican Party vociferously oppose his strategy. By giving some candidates his blessing and others the New Jersey state bird, Mr. Trump essentially functions as kingmaker and de facto head of the Republican Party. Some are already whining about it. Georgia Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan is one such politico, kvetching to Fox News about Trump’s political machinations:
“We’ve seen the circus come to town before, most memorably during the runoff with Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue. We watched how 99.9% of the festivities were centered around him, talking about how he was wronged in an election, it was a fraudulent deal, and just creates and sows chaos and confusion as to why people should or shouldn’t show up to vote.”
Duncan chose not to run again but appears miffed because the former president endorsed State Sen. Burt Jones to replace him. In another early victory for 45, Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH) announced just last week he is retiring from the House of Representatives. The Hill reported one House Republican as saying, “[Gonzalez] couldn’t win the primary. Trump got him.” Ready and willing to take credit, Trump boasted, “1 down, 9 to go!” Gonzalez was one of ten Republicans who voted to impeach Mr. Trump.
It’s worth noting that the circus didn’t earn the slogan the “greatest show on earth” because it bored people to death, but because it was entertaining – and President Trump has proven he is a ringmaster and showman of the first order. Thus, his political blessing carries a generous measure of gravitas.
The rally provided an opportunity for the former president to bestow his seal of approval on Herschel Walker, who Trump reportedly talked into running for a Georgia Senate seat against Democrat Rafael Warnock in 2022. The former NFL football star brings stalwart name recognition, which is key to winning a statewide race. But longtime Republican leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), no friend of Trump, has misgivings about someone like Walker winning in the Peach State, primarily because politics is a new playing field for him.
As well, 45 is endorsing challenger Rep. Jody Hice to run against Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. Faithful Trump operative Corey Lewandowski also disclosed that Team Trump is seeking someone to run against Georgia’s Republican Gov. Brian Kemp.
The former president has an active down-ballot hit-list consisting of Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), among several others. This method of actively working against people in one’s own party is unusual, but then again, Donald J. Trump is not your traditional politician. What is customary and routine, the former president often eschews. That might be his greatest selling point to a weary electorate.
Any way you look at it, this rally in Georgia demonstrates that Trump’s political muscle has not atrophied and, should his strategy work in the midterms, the American public might just be witnessing Trump on steroids come 2023.
~ Read more from Leesa K. Donner.