On Saturday, Trump took the stage at the Delaware County Fairgrounds and delivered one of his patented speeches, slamming President Joe Biden and criticizing the Democrat's policies on the U.S.-Mexico border, inflation, and law enforcement. Trump also attempted to rally supporters behind JD Vance, his chosen candidate in Ohio's contentious U.S. Senate primary race.
Tom Zawistowski, president of the tea party-affiliated We the People Convention, has described the GOP Senate primary as "a free-for-all." Seven candidates are vying for the spot and are led in the polls by Mike Gibbons and Josh Mandell. But according to Zawistowski, the crowd was clearly not excited about Trump endorsing Vance (currently third in polling, according to RealClearPolitics).
[UPDATE: Since this story was originally posted, a Fox News poll shows Vance's numbers against other hopefuls jumped 12 points since March. That same poll indicates half of voters could change their mind about who they currently support.]
"If you watched it on TV, you could kind of tell that Trump was a little bit low energy – and in the crowd there was definitely low energy; the cheers and stuff were not like normal at a Trump rally," he tells AFN. "The attendance was definitely down – and when he went to endorse Vance, hundreds of people got up and started walking out the exit."
Zawistowski explains apparently a strange policy was in effect at the rally: "People who were trying to attend the rally were told that if they were wearing a shirt or a hat that had the name of anybody but Vance or someone else that Trump had endorsed, they couldn't wear it into the facility."
The tea party leader points out that caused a problem for Republican gubernatorial candidate Jim Renacci, who is challenging incumbent Democratic Governor Mike DeWine.
"Think about it: it's the biggest gathering of Republicans in the state before the election, which is next week, and you're running for governor …. So, you'd want to be there to hand out your stuff, right? That would make sense. [But] they were not allowed into the building."
Trump has not endorsed any candidate in the governor's race, Zawistowski notes.
Trump risking loss of his base
According to Zawistowski, a growing number of Republicans around the nation are questioning Trump's decision-making and leadership. He says that's because those voters are "seeing what they want" in Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.
"And what they want is legislation – not speeches, not tweets," he continues. "This is [our] message to President Trump: We need to win the House and the Senate, and we need to pass legislation that can't be thrown out 24 hours after you're out of office. We get really concerned when you endorse people like Dr. Oz and JD Vance because we don't believe they're going to vote for that legislation."
He also contends if Trump doesn't start endorsing "real conservatives," his base is going elsewhere – to DeSantis, to Texas Governor Greg Abbott, or to Trump's former secretary of state, Mike Pompeo. "But it isn't going to be you – that's our message to Trump," Zawistowski concludes.
4/27/2022 - 'Trump risking loss of his base' section added.