Fire and brimstone from the thigh: Trump visualizes the campaign for 2024

By Philip Wegman for RealClearPolitics

Donald Trump is traveling here for the annual Coalition for Faith and Freedom political conference, an event announced by its organizers as the primary national gathering for conservative activists who happen to be people of the Christian faith to condemn enemies and rebuke old friends. to relive the triumphs and reconsider the problems, to clear the accounts and to strengthen its grip on the religious right.

The former president spoke in front of a packed crowd in Gaylord Opryland’s ballroom for more than an hour and a half, jumping between prepared remarks and inspired insults. It was fire and brimstone from the thigh.

Former Vice President Mike Pence, his most loyal lieutenant until the day he refused to cancel the 2020 election, was a “human conveyor belt.” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican who backed Pence’s decision to certify election results, is an “old broken crow.” Representative Meanwhile, Adam Schiff, the California Democrat who has been helping lead the Committee’s January 6 investigation, was just a “bad guy.” Majority leader Chuck Schumer, “mafia boss.”

At a time when nearly 70 percent of Americans believe the country is headed in the wrong direction, Trump is mostly fluent in topics such as inflation and the economy. President Biden was late Friday, even as Republicans prepare to turn the midterm into a referendum on his term. These were the first remarks of Trump after the investigation of the House of Representatives in January. Six riots in the US Capitol and Trump had prepared his own counter-program.

He compared this new investigation to the old “fraudsters”, urging his supporters, if they have not already done so, to uncontrollably reject the Democrats’ claims that he instigated a riot: “Just insert January 6 instead of Russia, Russia, Russia.”

“It’s no coincidence that the same people who staged the Russia, Russia, Russia scam are now cracking down on the insurgency,” Trump said. And the longer Trump maintained what he saw as his past and present abuse, the more prophetic a senator. Lindsay Graham said.

CONNECTED: Trump writes epic 12-page response by January 6 hearings, hints of campaign announcement for 2024

The two remain close, talk often and often share food. “I’m going to play golf with him on Sunday,” the South Carolina Republican told RealClearPolitics during an behind-the-scenes interview. And in Graham’s mind, “there is no doubt” that Trump remains the leader of the Republican Party even after more than a year out of office. “Just look at the vote,” the senator said. “He is the strongest force in the Republican Party.”

Politicians usually need a reason to obsess over poll numbers. Trump’s motivation is obvious. He was public flirtation with another White House election for months and Graham told the RCP that the nomination is now his if he wants it. “I don’t think anyone can beat him in the primary if he runs a disciplined campaign,” he said. “Can he win again now, yes, but he will have to bring back the people he lost.” Who are the voters who have gone astray? Suburban Women. Were they still excluded from the way Trump’s presidency ended, and would that stop them from returning to Trump’s bosom? Graham doubts.

The senator said it was “a terrible day for the country” and hoped that “the people who desecrated the Capitol will go to jail”. But he has no faith in the commission set up to investigate the riots, and so far “January 6 is baked in the cake.”

“I think what will be the defining outcome is whether President Trump can remain disciplined enough to talk about solving the problems Biden has created,” Graham told the RCP before pulling out a list of Trump’s achievements: energy independence, countering Russian aggression in Europe, Middle East peace agreements, Operation Warp Speed ​​to deliver the COVID vaccine. “If he can talk about ‘I’m the person who can solve the problems that have been created, then he has a hell of a good chance of winning,'” Graham insisted before pausing to add, “if it’s a campaign for complaint, then he will have a problem. “

If Trump has heard this advice before, he is not ready to take it to heart on Friday. While marking each of Graham’s policy fields, he spent more time rescuing his enemies than highlighting his accomplishments.

“They know we’re leading in every poll, both Republicans and Democrats,” the former president told the committee on Jan. 6, “and they don’t like it.” After all, he added, this investigation is being led by “very vicious people”. The whole work was a “theatrical production of political fiction.” Perhaps most humiliating, at least in Trump’s mind, prime-time hearings “get terrible ratings.”

CONNECTED: Report: Trump is looking at the Republican Party. Elise Stefanick as a potential runner for 2024

This routine may not work later, but the conservative believers gathered in Nashville were on board. They liked to tease them. When Trump mentioned the next Republican president, asking, “I wonder who he will be,” the crowd erupted. And when Trump asked directly, “Would anyone like me to run for president?” They were on their feet, chanting “The United States!” USA! USA! “

Other potential presidential candidates have already been nominated. Former Ambassador Nicki Haley spoke on Thursday. Sens. Tim Scott of South Carolina and Rick Scott of Florida, Friday morning. Each of them was more modest, treating the event less as a cattle call, but more like a rally before the interim sessions. All the signs seem to point to impending shelling. The president continues to slip in the polls, and his face continues to pop up at gas stations – motorists slam Biden’s stickers that read “I did it!” at gas stations to relieve their pain. So what will motivate voters in November? Problems with the classic kitchen table or the complex findings of a Capitol Hill committee?

“I understand that the January 6 committee has canceled some of their hearings due to a lack of spectators or something like that,” said a Tennessee senator. Marsha Blackburn replied. “But people are worried about what’s happening with their salaries, their jobs, their community and their children,” she said behind the scenes of the RCP before Trump arrived at the convention center.

Parents are already worried, the Tennessee Republican said, about street drugs and fentanyl being put on dollar bills and teddy bears. And these are everyday real-life problems. And I’m so grateful that people are concerned about that. “

On some of these fronts, Republicans are already smelling blood. They have been hitting Biden relentlessly since he took office, first to deal with the ongoing pandemic and now to run an increasingly volatile economy. And Republican National Committee Chairman Rona McDaniel acknowledges Trump for strengthening the Republican Party’s resolve.

“I think he taught us to stand up for what we believe in and not give up. And I think that’s key, “she told RCP hours before the former president took the stage. “I think we used to be ‘Mr. A good man, “the chairwoman said of previous Republican generations. “We want to be nice and we want to attract people to our party. But we also have to stand up for what we believe in when we are turned around. ”

CONNECTED: One of the conspiracy theories of the January 6 riot committee debunked by Capitol police

It remains to be seen whether Trump’s focus on personal grievances diverts attention from his party’s efforts to regain a majority in Congress. Republicans generally bypassed the committee on Jan. 6, hoping that if they did not give him extra oxygen, the fire would go out. Not Trump. He almost made the issue part of his re-election platform.

“Most people should not be treated the way they are treated,” he told those accused of storming the Capitol. “If I become president one day, if I decide to do so, I will look at them very, very seriously for pardon.”

Once again, the crowd signaled their approval, just as they did every time Trump hinted at a return to the presidency. There was nothing thin on Friday. Not his appetite for revenge. Not his ambitions in the White House. Even the music. Trump was dancing off stage and the admiring crowd was shouting, and the speakers were roaring, “Hold on, I’m coming.”

After the ballroom emptied and Trump left, three high-ranking voters, best described as sweet, southern church ladies, caught up with RealClearPolitics to give political testimony. One was present in January. 6 Stop the Theft Rally. Another had planned, but failed to catch a flight in time. All three gave “2000 Mules”, a film by Dinesh D’Souza, which is said to be a conspiracy to steal the election, admirable reviews. Former Attorney General Bill Barr mocked the film. They liked him.

The commission’s January 6 findings on them were as credible as the allegations that Trump had spoken to Russia. Their support for the former president, from whom they had just heard, is unwavering. Was there anything, anything at all, that he could do or say that their voice could cost him? “Absolutely nothing,” said Diana Smith of Georgia. “Look at what the Democrats did. Biden and Kamala are destroying America.

Syndicated with permission from Real Clear Wire.

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