Former President Donald Trump is steadily ramping up public events, with his first rally since leaving office set to take place Saturday night in Ohio.
The event will be for an opponent of Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, a Republican congressman who voted for Trump’s impeachment following his role in inspiring the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
Trump is expected to hold many score-settling rallies and make lots of grievance-based endorsements ahead of the 2022 midterm elections, as Republicans seek to wrest control of one or both chambers of Congress from Democrats.
Saturday’s rally will be a test of whether Trump’s still got it. Can he bring out the devoted crowds that filled stadiums for him when he was president and as a candidate? Trump has left the door wide open to running again.
Because of Trump’s popularity with the GOP base, that’s put somewhat of a freeze on the 2024 field, but some are running versions of shadow campaigns. Just this week, other top potential GOP presidential candidates were making public appearances and made the news, as they jockey for position — if Trump doesn’t run.
Here’s a look at some:
Ron DeSantis, Florida governor
He’s on the tips of many tongues in GOP circles, and he’s become a lightning rod on the left for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and more. Just this week — in addition to dealing with a building collapse — he signed controversial bills targeting so-called “indoctrination” in colleges and universities, and expanding K-12 “civics education,” which is to include “portraits in patriotism” with “first-person accounts of victims of other nations’ governing philosophies who can compare those philosophies with those of the United States.”
That comes after the state banned teaching “critical race theory” in its public schools, something that’s become a cultural catch-all on the right for teaching about the depths of Black history and the Black experience.
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All of that has only served to vault DeSantis to prominence with Republicans. In a straw poll of attendees at the Western Conservative Summit in Colorado last weekend, DeSantis edged Trump with a slightly higher approval rating, 74% to 71%.
Key quote: “It used to be thought that a university campus was a place where you’d be exposed to a lot of different ideas. Unfortunately now, the norm is really these are more intellectually repressive environments,” DeSantis said during a bill signing at a middle school. “You have orthodoxies that are promoted and other viewpoints are shunned, or even suppressed. We don’t want that in Florida.”