Trump To Hold First (Small) Rally

[ Posted Monday, March 6th, 2023 – 17:09 UTC ]

Donald Trump is running for president again. Forgive me if this was an unnecessary thing to point out, but at times it seems like the public almost needs a reminder of this fact, due to Trump's almost non-existent campaign so far. Personally, I am left wondering when Trump is going to get back to his signature giant rallies and start actively running once again in a big way. If President Joe Biden announces his re-election bid, it will almost certainly clear the Democratic field of serious contenders, so the primary fight on the Republican side is going to be the only game in town for the next year or more. But so far, it has been a real snoozefest.

Trump and a few other Republicans were in the news this weekend, appearing at an annual right-wing conference, but from all reports it was rather lightly attended -- both on stage and off. Major Republican personalities (such as Ron DeSantis) skipped the event, and the crowds were remarkably small. But this could easily have been a reflection of the conference itself and not Trump (who headlined).

Trump has made a few desultory appearances at gatherings of big Republican donors, but he's also been pointedly not invited to some of these gatherings as well (as GOP donors who are looking for someone else meet with Trump's rivals). Trump's team has talked him into at least attempting to come up with an agenda to run on that consists of something more than just his sour grapes over losing the 2020 election, so he has slowly been rolling out new policy announcement videos on Trump's own pet social media site. But these are also pretty lackluster and you can tell that Trump will jettison any of these ideas if he feels like it at any time. His team had let it be known that Trump would be talking about his new-and-improved agenda at the speech this weekend, but it turned into just the usual replay of his now-standard complaints and declarations of victimhood.

But he has yet to give such a speech to a really large crowd of supporters in his signature rally style. The first Trump rally has now been announced, but it seems like an awfully small-bore event. When Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announced he was traveling to Iowa next week, Trump quickly announced he'd be going three days later as well (obviously, in an effort to steal DeSantis's thunder). But Trump will be appearing in a theater in Davenport that only seats 2,400 people. For the first time since he announced in mid-November, Trump will face his adoring fans -- a couple thousand of them, at any rate. The whole thing reminds me of nothing more than an aging rock band doing a reunion tour but only being able to fill very small venues -- a far cry from the stadium shows they were used to doing, back in the day.

Perhaps he's waiting for better weather. Admittedly, March in Iowa (or New Hampshire, for that matter) isn't exactly the best time of year to hold an outdoor rally. Or perhaps Trump doesn't feel any real pressure yet, since so far he hasn't drawn much competition -- at least not officially. Nikki Haley has announced her bid for the presidency and so has a rich guy with an axe to grind. But nobody else of note has tossed their hat into the GOP presidential ring yet. The only real news on this front is who has announced they won't be running. This list grows longer by the week, and now includes several senators with obvious presidential ambitions (Tom Cotton, Ted Cruz, Joni Ernst, Josh Hawley, Rick Scott). This weekend, the former governor of Maryland, Larry Hogan, announced he would also be taking a pass on a 2024 campaign. Trump's early entry into the race was done for two likely reasons: to insulate himself from Trump's various legal problems and to try to clear or freeze the GOP field, by scaring off other major contenders. While the first is still an open question, he has at least been partially successful at the second. For many prominent Republicans young enough to wait another four years for a better try, it seems it's just not worth it to take on Trump in 2024.

Of course, there still are a lot of GOP politicians who haven't made up their mind either way yet. This is a very long list, but currently it's got Ron DeSantis at the top of it. Most are biding their time, probably watching very closely how Trump reacts to Haley (mostly by ignoring her, so far) and the growing battle between Trump and DeSantis. But they won't be able to wait forever -- sooner or later all the big GOP donors are going to be locked in for some other candidate, which won't leave enough money on the table for new candidates to run a truly national campaign. So this dam is very likely going to burst within the next two or three months, and we should see a whole passel of Republican challengers jump in.

One reason Trump may be keeping his own powder dry (in terms of not getting too vicious towards anyone yet) is that he would actually benefit from there being a large field of GOP contenders. He used this to his advantage in a big way in 2016, so for the time being his line has been: "The more the merrier." It'll sure be interesting to note how many zingers Trump aims at DeSantis next week in Iowa, because so far DeSantis is the only one showing anywhere near the public support necessary to be a threat to Trump winning the GOP nomination again.

An open question is how many more Republicans will look at the dynamics of the 2024 race and conclude exactly the same thing that Larry Hogan just did: "It's just not worth it this time around, I might have better luck in four years." Or, even more pointedly: "If there are too many of us splitting the not-Trump vote, then no single strong challenger will be able to emerge." This may play out in another way as well, towards the end of this year. No matter how many people do start running for each "lane" in the Republican contest, if they don't catch fire in the polls, will some of them start altruistically dropping out and throwing their support behind a similar candidate, in the hopes of giving him or her a better shot at Trump when the voting actually starts? It will be interesting to watch this all play out (if it does).

The intraparty divisions are already shaping up. Trump is running (once again) against the GOP establishment -- he reportedly plans on trying to tie DeSantis to Paul Ryan and other former bright lights in the Republican universe. In his speech this weekend, Trump declared: "We had a Republican Party that was ruled by freaks, neocons, globalists, open-border zealots, and fools. But we are never going back to the party of Paul Ryan, Karl Rove, and Jeb Bush." He's also planning on making a big deal out of DeSantis being in favor of cutting Social Security and Medicare, something that Trump has taken a populist stance on (he's in favor of no cuts, he now says, even though all of the budgets he proposed while in office would indeed have cut the programs).

One thing people are beginning to speculate now is whether Trump's brand has indeed started to fade in any way. Have Republican voters really decided that their chances of winning in 2024 would be a lot higher if Trump wasn't their nominee? This will be put to a better test in Iowa than it was at the right-wing confab this weekend, since Trump will be the only one on the bill. If Trump can't even fill a 2,400-seat theater, that may be one of the prominent storylines in the coverage. Even if he does manage to fill it up, this is a far cry from the tens of thousands who used to regularly show up to see him. Once the weather warms up a little, we'll start to see a real indication of how popular Trump's shtick really is anymore.

Perhaps this is why Trump hasn't even tried to do any big rallies yet? Can Trump still pack the house at a big rally, or is he going to be campaigning in 2,400-seat halls for the foreseeable future? We should soon have an answer to those questions.


[Correction: Due to laxity in my fact-checking, this article originally stated that both Trump and DeSantis would be appearing in Iowa on the same day. This is incorrect: DeSantis will appear Friday (3/10) while Trump will appear next Monday (3/13). The has been corrected in the text, and we regret the error.]

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


11 Comments on “Trump To Hold First (Small) Rally”

  1. [1] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    I can't wait.

  2. [2] 
    nypoet22 wrote:


    wake me at intermission.

  3. [3] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    On second sober thought, don't bother ... I need my beauty sleep. :)

  4. [4] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Can we stop talking about Trump for five minutes?

  5. [5] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:

    Liz [4]

    No, as Americans, we cannot…nor should we. Our democracy is being attacked by Trump and much of the GOP. Ignoring them would be a mistake. No one in Ukraine is saying “Could we stop talking about Russia”; you stay focused on your attacker in a war… or you will lose.

  6. [6] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    You have to do a lot more than focus on your attacker if you wish to win a war, in both cases. You must also be able to analyze the big picture and not miss the overall.

  7. [7] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Besides, I never said stop talking about Trump. Ahem.

  8. [8] 
    Kick wrote:

    Elizabeth Miller

    Can we stop talking about Trump for five minutes?

    You first, dearest. :)

  9. [9] 
    Kick wrote:


    No, as Americans, we cannot…nor should we. Our democracy is being attacked by Trump and much of the GOP.

    Exactly right. We also would not ignore the frontrunner of the so-called GOP, would we? Rhetorical question. I know that you know we definitely wound not.

    Ignoring them would be a mistake. No one in Ukraine is saying “Could we stop talking about Russia”; you stay focused on your attacker in a war… or you will lose.

    Hit them in the turrets of their shitty tanks, I always say.

    Love you, Russ! :)

  10. [10] 
    Kick wrote:

    Elizabeth Miller

    You have to do a lot more than focus on your attacker if you wish to win a war, in both cases. You must also be able to analyze the big picture and not miss the overall.

    Assuming you are correct, in what scenario is "Trump" not part of this "overall" of which you speak? Rhetorical question. We (me and Russ) know that you know that he is.

    Besides, I never said stop talking about Trump. Ahem.

    Yes, you definitely did say that, but you did give it a very small timeframe in which to stop. ;)

  11. [11] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


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