For 90 minutes, he took his wildly enthusiastic audience on another one of those uniquely Trumpian rides, at once nostalgic, bitter, yet sanguine. This once and, he hopes, future leader of the free world reminded the gathered throng in Arizona – and the world beyond – of just how much they are missing. More importantly, in his famously provocative fashion, he promised his supporters and warned his enemies in all but uncertain terms of his still unofficial but imminent return to the biggest stage of all.
The somewhat slimmed-down version of the 45th president was his old self, topped in a signature MAGA cap and in fine fettle, the horrors of the 2020 election and aftermath no longer appearing to drag him down as he spoke on Saturday night in Florence, some 60 miles southeast of Phoenix. Locked and loaded, the Donald took no prisoners, forcefully denouncing his failing successor and the increasingly left-leaning Democratic Party. He hit most every hot button domestic and foreign, from Covid-related mandates to attacks on free speech to the Democrats’ extreme left-wing agenda, from the southern border to Afghanistan to the fresh adventurism of Vladimir Putin.
He thundered from the stage about how the country has become a laughingstock under Joe Biden, how the GOP will end the career of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and how he would like to end the career of Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY). He repeatedly inveighed against woke military leaders and referred to today’s Democrats as “power-hungry lunatics” advancing “left-wing fascism” who no longer speak of, or care about, American greatness.
The Ghost of Elections Past
But underlying all of it was Trump’s continued insistence that he actually won the 2020 election. Far from moving past his claims of massive fraud, he doubled down in keeping the issue of the last election very much alive as he all but certainly plans for the next one. How voters ultimately respond to Trump’s continued insistence that the last election was stolen is the greatest single unknown factor in his impending candidacy.
No doubt, voters in the midterms and ultimately in the 2024 presidential election will have to weigh the performance of the collapsing Democrats against the singular issue they dangle – the threat of a triumphant return by Donald Trump to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. In order to do so, he would have to become the first candidate to win a third consecutive Republican presidential nomination.
But the left’s campaign of destruction against Trump will likely prove to be far less effective than in previous years given the so far disastrous presidency of the man left-wing media did everything in their power to push across the finish line. Trump’s presidency is looking better by the day, particularly so in comparison to his successor. And voters will recall that it was Trump who fast-tracked three vaccines in record time, while Biden stumbles to administer that free gift. He got the economy roaring, while Biden presides over the worst inflation in 40 years. Trump controlled the border, while Biden has all but opened it and let thousands of illegals pour into the country. And while the 45th president avoided foreign conflicts, Biden made a mess in Afghanistan from which he is unlikely to ever recover. Plus, the boogeyman threat of Trump refusing to hand over power – they characterize Jan. 6 as a coup, even as the FBI concluded there was no advance planning – is hardly real when he would be ineligible to run again in 2028.
The Waiting Game
Now, you may ask, and rightfully so, why Trump doesn’t just go ahead and officially announce his candidacy. By most accounts, he would like to have done so already, but was talked out of it by advisors for several reasons. An official candidacy this early in the election cycle would complicate his current fundraising apparatus which has already raised over $100 million since he left office, could trigger equal time rules when he appears on TV, and would be used to gin up fear – and turnout – among Democrats who have nothing else going for them heading into the midterms. You can bet Trump will take credit if the GOP scores the expected big victory this November, but he can also avoid any blame for underperformance by waiting until 2023 to announce his bid to return to the White House.
In the end, the problem for Trump’s enemies is that, much to their chagrin and contrary to any politician most of us have ever witnessed, Donald J. Trump has proven to be an unparalleled political force they still do not understand, a man who delivers on huge promises, with an actual record undeniably superior to that of his feckless successor. And with Joe Biden descending into political oblivion with startling speed, and some polls showing a rematch would result in a Trump victory, it is fair to say the left’s hatred of Donald Trump is exceeded only by its fear of him.
~ Read more from Tim Donner.