WELLINGTON, Ohio – Former President Donald J. Trump returned to the rally scene on Saturday night after an absence of nearly six months, his first major public rally since his “Save America” event on January 6 which resulted in a riot murderous on the Capitol.
On Saturday, the same words – “Save America” - appeared behind Mr. Trump as he addressed a crowd of several thousand at an exhibition center in Wellington County, Ohio, about 35 miles south. -West of Cleveland.
He repeated familiar lies about the fraudulent 2020 votes. He attacked Republican officials for refusing to support his efforts to overturn the election results – including Rep. Anthony E. Gonzalez of Ohio, who voted for impeach Mr. Trump, and whose main challenger, Max Miller, was the reason for Mr. Trump’s visit. The former president praised Mr Miller as they appeared on stage together.
Mr. Trump remains the most powerful figure in the Republican Party, with scores of GOP lawmakers repeating his lies about a stolen 2020 election and fearing to cross him, and many party members are waiting to see him. he will run for the White House. in 2024.
Yet in audience and on stage, the scene in Ohio on Saturday reflected how diminished Mr. Trump has become in his post-presidency and how dependent he is on a smaller group of allies and supporters who have adopted its alternate reality. like theirs. One of the headliners at the event was Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, the far-right Republican who promoted the QAnon conspiracy theory.
Mr. Trump’s speech – low-key, tapering off, and lasting nearly 90 minutes – sometimes fell flat with an otherwise beloved audience. Dozens of people left early as he bounced from topic to topic – immigration, Israel, President Nancy Pelosi’s protective mask.
“Do you miss me?” Mr. Trump asked in one of his biggest lines of applause. “I miss them,” he said.
In interviews, many members of the crowd expressed unwavering faith in Mr. Trump’s election lies and engaged in his rewriting of the history of the mob attack on Capitol Hill.
Tony Buscemi, 61, a small business owner from West Bloomfield, Michigan, who stood with his daughter, Natalie, in the sunny field where Mr. Trump spoke, said he was on Capitol Hill on January 6 and he wrongly claimed that it was a “predominantly peaceful” gathering.
“People were praying. People were singing, ”Mr Buscemi said, adding that he could have walked into the building himself if his daughter hadn’t convinced him it was a bad idea. “There was no insurgency,” he insisted. “I saw nothing wrong with it.”
Polls suggest that most Republicans remain skeptical of President Biden’s election victory. Thirty-six percent of Republicans said in a Monmouth University poll released Monday that Mr Biden won the election fairly, while 57 percent said his victory was the result of fraud.
Still, there is evidence that Mr. Trump’s influence over Republican voters is waning – albeit slightly.
At the end of April, 44% of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents said in an NBC News poll that they supported Mr. Trump more than the party itself. A slightly higher share, 50 percent, said they were more inclined to support the party.
It was the first time since NBC pollsters began asking the question in early 2019 that up to half of Republicans said they supported the party more than the man.
Giovanni Russonello contributed reports.