Trump hosts campaign-style rally in Florida as he aims to retain Republican spotlight
SARASOTA, Fla. – Former U.S. President Donald Trump will hold a rally on Saturday in Sarasota, Florida, his second campaign-style event of the summer as he seeks to retain his hold over the Republican Party and bolster allies ahead of the 2022 midterm elections.
The rally, billed as a Fourth of July celebration featuring fireworks, is expected to draw several thousand people from across the state which Trump, a Republican, won by more than 3 percentage points in the 2020 presidential election.
By afternoon, several thousand people wearing red, white and blue had arrived at the Sarasota Fairgrounds for the rally, some wearing Trump 2024 T-shirts and waving American flags.
Trump is likely to berate President Joe Biden, repeat his false claim that he lost the 2020 election due to fraud, and urge his supporters to back his allies in their midterm campaigns as Republicans fight to take back control of Congress from the Democratic Party next year.
Jack Brill, chair of the Republican Party of Sarasota County, said he hoped the former president would use his speech to galvanize his supporters ahead of the midterms and the Florida gubernatorial race.
“I’m hoping that this will get everybody fired up as we moved forward for our 2022 elections,” Brill said.
The Sarasota event is the latest in Trump’s return to public life after his election loss and the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, which was carried out by his supporters who believed his false claim that the election was rigged.
Some 53% of Republicans believe Trump won and blame his loss on illegal voting, and one quarter of the overall public agreed Trump won, a May 17-19 Reuters/Ipsos poll showed.
Trump held his first comeback rally on June 26 in Wellington, Ohio, where he voiced support for his former White House aide Max Miller’s primary campaign against U.S. Representative Anthony Gonzalez, who had voted to impeach Trump over the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol.
BUILDUP TO 2024
Trump, 75, has dangled the possibility of running for president again in 2024, and his 2021 rally series marks his effort to keep his base energized and in his camp.
Whether he runs could depend on the outcome of some of the investigations and lawsuits facing Trump.
On Thursday, Trump’s namesake company and its chief financial officer pleaded not guilty to criminal charges brought as part of an investigation by the Manhattan district attorney into suspected tax fraud. Trump has accused the prosecutors of being politically motivated.
Many Republicans see an appealing option for a 2024 party nominee in Florida’s 42-year-old governor, Ron DeSantis. A longtime Trump ally, DeSantis has been at the forefront of Republican-led fights against strict anti-coronavirus lockdowns, racial justice protests and expanded ballot access.
In a straw poll of potential 2024 candidates at a conservative conference in Denver in June, DeSantis finished ahead of Trump, 74% to 71%.
DeSantis’ office has said the governor is focused on winning re-election in Florida next year, not aspiring to national office.
Lindsay Gordon, a 35-year-old Sarasota resident who works in retail, said it was her third time attending a Trump rally and she was excited to show her support for the former president. She said she hopes Trump runs again, but thought DeSantis might be a better, less-polarizing alternative.
“I think DeSantis would probably have a better opportunity seeing as he’s younger,” Gordon said. “Because he’s still new and fresh there’s still a chance to get people to understand where he’s coming from. There isn’t as much of this negativity.”
DeSantis was not attending Trump’s Sarasota rally, a spokesperson said, since he plans to spend the weekend in Surfside, Florida, where rescuers have spent more than a week searching for survivors in the rubble of a condo building collapse that killed at least 24 people and left scores missing.
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