Former President Donald Trump returned to campaign mode with a vengeance Saturday night, vowing at a rally in Ohio that Republicans would retake Congress, lamenting his loss in the election last November and retaliating against a Republican congressman who voted to impeach him.
Trump predicted that next year’s elections would result in “giant Republican majorities” in both chambers of Congress, calling the event “the very first rally of the 2022 election.”
“We’re going to take back the House and the Senate,” he promised the crowd gathered at the Lorain County Fairgrounds in Wellington, about a half-hour southwest of Cleveland.
The event marked Trump’s return to the type of large-scale rallies that fueled his presidential campaigns. Trump’s public appearances have been limited to a few speeches before conservative and Republican groups since he left office in January.
The Save America PAC, Trump’s political action committee, stated that the rally in Ohio would 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 has already been scheduled for July 3 in Sarasota, Florida.
Political analysts believe the events are intended to provide Trump with a platform to reassert himself as the Republican Party’s leader, promote his conspiracy theories about last November’s election, and, most importantly for Trump and his bruised ego, settle old scores.
Trump, who had been barred from using Twitter, Facebook, and other social media platforms to communicate with his supporters, reveled in the raucous crowd, which was estimated to number in the thousands.
The tone and style of the event were reminiscent of Trump’s rallies across the country during his two presidential campaigns. He took the stage as a loudspeaker played Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA,” a favorite on his campaign playlist last year, and tossed red “Make America Great Again” hats into the crowd.
In his 91-minute speech, Trump slammed Democratic opponents like Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi, mocked the “fake news” media, and leveled unfounded accusations about his loss to Joe Biden in the presidential election last November. Trump said he was “ashamed” of the United States. Supreme Court for failing to back up his unsubstantiated allegations of election fraud.
Despite losing the presidency to Biden in November, Trump carried Ohio by eight percentage points. However, political scientist Justin Buchler saw no significance in Trump’s choice of Ohio – historically a swing state in presidential elections – as the location of his first rally since leaving the White House.
Leslie Dodd drove from Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, to Wellington with her son to attend the rally. She expressed hope to hear good news from Trump and believes the GOP should follow his lead as candidates prepare for the elections in 2022 and 2024. Trump used his remarks not only to criticize Democrats, but also members of his own party, including Rep. Anthony Gonzalez of northeastern Ohio, who was one of ten Republicans who voted to impeach him for inciting the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, which killed five people.
Gonzalez was censured and asked to resign by the Ohio Republican Party’s governing board in May. Weeks earlier, Trump retaliated against Gonzalez by endorsing 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, and the rally on Saturday was held in part to support Miller’s candidacy.
During his remarks, Trump, as he has done in the past, repeatedly attacked Biden’s border policies, claiming that his successor had “deliberately and systematically” dismantled border security and allowed a flood of illegal immigrants into the country. He claimed that Vice President Kamala Harris went to the US-Mexico border on Friday “for one simple reason: I announced I was going.”
Trump’s rally was part of an overall strategy to keep him in the public eye, according to Cohen, despite the fact that he is no longer in office and is not a candidate for public office – at least not officially.