(Headline USA) Former President Donald Trump emphasized the rampant fraud in the 2020 election as he returned to the rally stage Saturday, holding his first campaign-style event since leaving the White House.
“This was the scam of the century and this was the crime of the century,” Trump told a crowd of thousands at Ohio’s Lorain County Fairgrounds, not far from Cleveland.
The event was held to support Max Miller, a former White House aide who is challenging Republican Rep. Anthony Gonzalez for his congressional seat. Gonzalez was one of 10 GOP House members who voted to impeach Trump for having an alleged role in “inciting” the Jan. 6 siege at the Capitol building.
And while he praised Miller as an “incredible patriot” and a ”great guy” who “loves the people of Ohio,” Trump spent much of the rally opining on the 2020 election, which he insists he won.
“The 2020 presidential election was rigged,” he told the crowd, which at one point broke into a “Trump won!” chant. “We won that election in a landslide.”
Saturday’s focus on the election of 2020 began even before Trump arrived. The pre-show included a PowerPoint-style presentation by a man who explained an algorithm was used to manipulate the election results.
And Mike Lindell, the My Pillow founder who has spent millions digging up evidence to prove the election was stolen, was hailed as a hero by some in the crowd, who chanted his name and jockeyed for photos as he milled around.
When Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a far-right Republican from Georgia known for her incendiary rhetoric, asked the crowd who their president is, they boomed loudly, “Trump!”
“President Trump is my president, too” she said.
And there were plenty of attacks on the current leader in the White House.
“After just five months the Biden administration is already a complete and total catastrophe,” Trump said. “Crime is surging, murders are soaring, police departments are being gutted, illegal aliens are overrunning our borders. Joe Biden is destroying our nation right before our very own eyes.”
The event had many of the trappings of the rallies Trump held as a candidate and as president. There was the eclectic playlist, the same stage design, and many familiar volunteers. Trump even reprised his performance of “The Snake,” a song he has used as an allegory for illegal immigration, and the crowd chanted “Lock her up” at the mention of Hillary Clinton, the Democrat he defeated in 2016 But gone was the grand entrance using Air Force Once as a backdrop, and the pomp that surrounds any sitting president.
Still, traffic through the afternoon was backed up from the fairgrounds into town, where pro-Trump signs dotted residents’ lawns. On street corners, vendors sold “Trump 2024” flags and other merchandise as supporters arrived.
“I just love him,” said Karen Barnett, 60, who drove from Dayton, Ohio and arrived at the fairgrounds around 3 a.m. after hopping in her car with “no sleep, nothing” when she heard the line was growing.
Trump plans another rally in Florida over the July Fourth weekend unattached to a midterm candidate and will travel to the southern border in the coming week to protest Biden’s immigration policies.
Although Trump remains a deeply polarizing figure, he is extremely popular with the Republican base, and candidates have flocked to his homes in Florida and New Jersey seeking his endorsement as he appears to clearly be his party’s kingmaker.
Trump has said he is committed to helping Republicans regain control of Congress in next year’s midterm elections.
So far, nine of the 10 House Republicans who voted for Trump’s impeachment have drawn primary challengers. And Trump has offered to support anyone who steps forward to challenge the remaining candidate, Rep. John Katko of New York, syracuse.com reported.
Gonzalez, a former college and professional football player, has stood by his impeachment vote in the face of fierce criticism from his party’s conservative wing, including his censure by the Ohio Republican Party. Miller, in opening remarks, labeled him an “anti-Trumper” who had betrayed Trump, the Republican Party and his district with his vote.
Trump’s rallies have been instrumental to his politics since he launched his 2016 campaign. The former reality star is energized by performing in front of his audiences and often test-drives new material and talking points to see how they resonate with the crowd. His political operation also uses the events to collect critical voter contact information from attendees and as fundraising tools.
And they have spawned a group of hardcore fans who traveled the country, attending dozens of rallies, often camping out overnight to snag prime spots. Some of those supporters began lining up outside the venue early in the week as they reunited for the event.
Others were attending their first rallies, having felt compelled to turn out in the election’s aftermath.
They included Chris Laskowski, 55, who lives in Medina, Ohio.
“We miss him,” she said. “I think they robbed him of the election and he’s still our president.”
She wasn’t alone.
“He’ll be back in August,” predicted Peggy Johnson, 60, who had traveled from Michigan to attend what she said was her seventh Trump rally. “He actually is president now.”
Adapted from reporting by Associated Press.