WASHINGTON – After a series of speeches to Republican conservatives over the past five months, former President Donald Trump will travel to Ohio and Florida over the next two and a half weeks to stage the kind of mass rallies with grassroots supporters that fueled his White House campaigns.
Trump is expected to hold his first post-presidential rally in the Cleveland area on June 26, followed by an event in the Tampa area on July 3, said two assistants familiar with the planning.
Trump, who has continued to protest his electoral defeat to President Joe Biden and attack his political critics in his speeches, has long vowed to hold the freest rallies in the months to come.
“We’re going to do one in Florida, we’re going to do one in Ohio, we’re going to do one in North Carolina,” Trump said in a May interview with One America News.
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Opponents have said Trump will undoubtedly make false claims about “voter fraud” in 2020, just as he did in the weeks leading up to the violent January 6 insurgency by his supporters on the U.S. Capitol.
“There is a great danger that it will cause trouble,” said John J. Pitney Jr., professor of government at Claremont McKenna College in California. “A responsible public figure would fire the Big Lie. But he’s not a responsible person. It’s Trump.”
Pitney and other analysts have said Trump is also keen to celebrate the adulation of his most staunch supporters and draw media attention to his grievances against the U.S. political system.
“One word: beware,” Pitney said, noting that Trump remained banned from Twitter, Facebook and other social media. Trump recently closed a new blog due to low traffic.
“The rallies are his ticket to media coverage,” Pitney said. “Another characteristic of gatherings appeals to him. He’s an applause junkie, and he needs his fix.”
Republican strategist Liz Mair has said one of Trump’s goals is to be on television “as much as humanly possible,” knowing this will help him if he decides to run for president in 2024. “I’m not sure the media has an interest in covering his rallies they did in 2015 and 2016, however,” she added.
Trump also plans to get involved in the 2022 legislative and national elections, including the Republican primaries in which he backs GOP challengers to lawmakers who have criticized him.
Lara Brown, director of the Graduate School of Political Management at George Washington University, said Trump will want to use the rallies to demonstrate the continued leadership of the Republican Party, despite his absence.
The events will also allow him “to reconnect with his supporters, which also means collecting and updating the contact information his political team has for those who attend his rallies,” Brown said.
Two Trump aides discussed the upcoming Ohio and Florida rallies on condition of anonymity, as final details of the appearances are still being worked out.
Trump gave a more formal speech in North Carolina on June 5 at the state Republican Party convention, after similar appearances earlier in the year.
In late February, Trump spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference meeting in Orlando, Florida. In April, he spoke to a group of Republican donors gathered at his home in Palm Beach, Florida.
In each of those stops, Trump continued to make false statements about electoral fraud in 2020, while generally avoiding discussing the January 6 insurgency designed to attempt to reverse his electoral loss.
Trump has attacked Republicans for his impeachment for inciting insurgency, a group that includes Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., And U.S. Representative Liz Cheney, R-Wyo.
Cheney, one of 10 House Republicans to vote for impeachment, said the party needs to move away from Trump and that his persistent allegations of voter fraud could spark more violence.
House Republicans who still support Trump, with their leader’s blessing, removed Cheney from his GOP leadership position in the House in May.
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Trump will undoubtedly criticize Biden at future rallies. No president has publicly attacked his successor so publicly so early in a new term.
In his previous public appearances, the former president even attacked his former vice president, Mike Pence, for refusing to heed his request to block the counting of the electoral votes which elected Biden.
Trump has pledged to campaign against Republicans who opposed him during impeachment. This includes a member of the Cleveland-area GOP who will host its first rally: Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, R-Ohio, who, like Cheney, voted to impeach Trump following the January 6 riot.
Trump also hinted at another presidential campaign in 2024, and the rallies could be used to gauge support for such an endeavor.