(Associated Press) Donald Trump on Saturday pushed Republicans to support candidates who are loyal to him in next year’s midterm elections as the former president launched a new more active phase of his post presidency.
Trump, 74, teased the prospect of another presidential bid of his own in 2024, but vowed first to be an active presence on the campaign trail for those who share his values in next year’s fight for control of Congress.
“The survival of America depends on our ability to elect Republicans at every level starting with the midterms next year,” Trump said.
Trump’s speech to hundreds of Republican officials and activists gathered for the North Carolina GOP convention was the opening appearance in what is expected to be a new phase of rallies and public events.
Out of office for more than four months, the former president hopes to use such events to elevate his voice ahead of another potential presidential run.
His advisers are already eyeing subsequent appearances in Ohio, Florida, Alabama and Georgia to help bolster midterm candidates and energize voters.
In contrast to the mega rallies that filled sports arenas when Trump was president, he faced a crowd that organizers estimated at 1,200 seated at dinner tables inside the Greenville convention center Saturday night. Tens of thousands more followed along on internet streams.
Invited to the stage briefly during his remarks, Trump daughter-in-law and North Carolina native Lara Trump announced she would not run for the Senate because of family obligations.
“I am saying no for now, not no forever,” Lara Trump said.
Minutes later, Trump announced his endorsement of loyalist Rep. Ted Budd in the crowded Republican primary, adding a slap at former Gov. Pat McCrory, who has been critical of Trump’s falsehoods about the 2020 election.
“You can’t pick people who have already lost two races and do not stand for our values,” Trump said.
McCrory served as the North Carolina governor from 2013 to 2017, but lost elections before and after his term.
Trump focused his early remarks on President Joe Biden, which he called “the most radical left-wing administration in history.”
“As we gather tonight our country is being destroyed before our very eyes,” he said.