In a CNN town hall on Wednesday, former President Donald Trump reminded Americans of national strife and hinted at more.
Republicans—and maybe the nation—must decide whether to repeat it.
The former commander-in-chief and GOP primary frontrunner highlighted in New Hampshire why Republican supporters love his combativeness and reluctance to follow presidential protocol and why he has held the GOP for years.
But in outbursts of election denialism, untamed fury, misogynistic comments about a sexual assault case, and refusal to agree Russian President Vladimir Putin is a war criminal, he also showed why many in the GOP fear he could again alienate enough voters to hand the White House to Democrats in 2024.
He also offered President Joe Biden more room to argue that a second Trump administration is unsustainable.
Trump remarked of the sensitive information he kept at his Florida estate after leaving office, “I have the absolute right to do whatever I want with them,” possibly pointing to his conviction that he should have no limits on his authority if he wins another term.
Trump’s big lead in early primary surveys shows that millions of Republican supporters don’t view this even more twisted version of the most disruptive president in American history as disqualified.
They desire and adore him for it. If he becomes the Republican nominee a third time, he may become president.
“I like Trump and what he stood for and now, I like him more,” said Joanne Rouston, a former Democrat-turned-Trump voter in the crowd. “The fight.”
Trump’s return is unprecedented. He also wants to become the second president to win a non-consecutive term. After losing his first reelection run, he’s trying to recover from double impeachment and tainting American democracy. He performed a day after a New York civil jury convicted him guilty of violence and slander for sexually abusing a woman in the 1990s. He pled not guilty to a hush money indictment. He may face further criminal charges for his attacks on democracy and hoarding of sensitive papers, pushing the nation’s legal systems in an unprecedented way for a presidential contender.
The town hall was the first time Trump was publicly held accountable for his 2020 election falsehoods and involvement in encouraging a mob attack on Congress by his fans. Despite various courts dismissing his objections and his own government certifying that there was no widespread fraud, he again refused to acknowledge that he lost the 2016 presidential election.
Trump also hinted that he may pardon a “large portion” of the rioters who broke into the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, and battered police officers.
2024 campaign’s actual start
The tension and excitement at bucolic Saint Anselm College, as Republicans and undeclared voters lined up serenaded by a large crowd’s anti-Trump chanting, signaled the genuine start of the 2024 presidential election.
Trump’s campaign said before the event that it was targeting not only “Make America Great Again” followers but also other Republicans and even centrist voters who were put off by his past conduct but may give him another chance.
Trump’s emphasis on his own, often inaccurate, interpretation of events is popular with his loyalists, but his presence on Wednesday didn’t help him gain new supporters. After the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, his attempt to straddle the abortion issue may have caused the GOP further political problems. Trump sought credit for the conservative victory after 50 years.
But his evasive responses on what his policy would be and whether he would sign a comprehensive ban on the practice if imposed by a Republican Congress revealed he realized he was in a political vise.
Trump claimed he was proud to nominate conservative judges who overturned the constitutional right to abortion. The statement will win over anti-abortion supporters and social conservatives and calm some concerns about his wild nature.
After the town hall, New Hampshire Right to Life president Jason Hennessey remarked, “I think the number one injustice in our country right now is the ending of unborn life. “If he can save the babies…I think that’s more important than the other stuff.”
Democrats are already using Trump’s statement to argue that the Supreme Court’s unpopular decision damaged Republicans in the midterm elections last year and might help Biden win a second term in 2024.
Trump’s sexist labeling of former magazine writer E. Jean Carroll, the plaintiff in the New York defamation and violence legal lawsuit, as a “whack job” did not help his 57% to 42% 2020 female voter disadvantage. He also called CNN anchor Kaitlan Collins a “nasty person” for fact-checking him in real time.
Trump is himself.
After 2020, Trump did not adjust his anti-democratic views or his claim that the election was “rigged.”
The ex-president showed again that he hates American democracy, global leadership, and the idea that the office is larger than its holders.
He refused to name Putin a “war criminal” despite proof of atrocities in his unjustified invasion of Ukraine and International Criminal Court warrants for his arrest. Trump’s main concern is that the US has given Kyiv more democracy help than the EU, which he regularly accused of “ripping off” the US in his first term.
He incorrectly claimed that the Presidential Records Act allowed him to take confidential documents home after leaving office and declassify them. His replies to legal probes may have caused his attorneys new problems. But they reinforced the idea that Trump believes he has no legal or behavioral limits in office, now or in the future.
This contradicts the principles of a nation founded against tyranny and for the rule of law, according to many Americans. Again, many Republican voters perceive this as a sign of a leader prepared to stand up to a corrupt liberal elite dominated by radical left-wing ideology.
Many Republicans in the crowd on Wednesday saw Trump’s administration as a triumph, despite his continuous scandals, upheaval, and power grabs.
“The best thing about Trump is that he will bring the best minds in the world into one room to get the best consensus,” said Concord Republican City Committee chairman Andrew Georgevits as he exited the town hall. “He collaborates to achieve the best results and truly cares about America.”
On Wednesday, numerous Republican supporters said they hoped Trump was more disciplined. His wildness draws and repels fans.
Al Peel attended the town hall to ask Trump on his homeless veteran policies. He also wanted the ex-president to behave.
Peel stated he would be more popular if he could avoid Twitter and the keyboard. “Bozo the Clown, OK. I like his results.”
While many Republicans feel that Trump’s deliverables justify his outrages, the Biden camp believes that his predecessor’s incorrigible actions on Wednesday and his fixation with election denialism would again alienate a majority of Americans.
It was effective. One consultant told CNN’s Arlette Saenz, “Weeks’ worth of damning content in one hour,” hinting to a digital and television advertising goldmine.
CNN’s town hall with Trump was criticized as a forum for his falsehoods and deception. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted this position.
Eight years into Trump’s frequently extreme grip on American politics, it’s evident that his support is not only founded in an untamed personality that looks solely concerned with his grievances and objectives. He resonates with millions of people and embodies a national character and democracy mindset.
He leads the Republican presidential campaign. Nothing on Wednesday night looked to change that, given the reticence of key announced and yet-to-be-proclaimed GOP competitors to condemn Trump.