Trump repeats claim of 2020 election fraud at campaign-style rally in Ohio

Donald Trump held his first big campaign-style rally since leaving the White House, giving a vintage, rambling speech Saturday to an adoring audience as he launched a series of appearances ahead of next year's midterm elections.

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The former president, who has been booted from social media platforms and faces multiple legal woes, has flirted with his own potential candidacy in 2024, but in the 90-minute address at a fair ground in Ohio he made no clear mention of his political future, even when the crowd chanted "four more years! four more years!"

Trump did tease them at one point by alluding to the possibility of another stab at the White House.

"We may have to win it a third time. It is possible," he said, showing yet again he thinks he won in November. The crowd cheered wildly.

On other matters Trump flitted from one to the next -- immigration, crime, gun rights, Afghanistan, Iran and more -- bouncing like a pinball in true Trumpian style.

One repeated message was that President Joe Biden is a catastrophe. "Joe Biden is destroying our nation before our very eyes," Trump said.

And Trump hammered away yet again at the falsehood that he won the November election but Biden prevailed through fraud.

"The election was over," Trump said, "And we took a massive victory. They did something that should never be allowed."

Until now Trump had delivered two major speeches since leaving Washington in January, including a vindictive monologue in North Carolina early this month which relitigated his loss to Biden.

The Ohio rally drew a crowd of several thousand, who were enthusiastic but not quite raucous.

One purpose of it was for Trump to endorse conservative candidate Max Miller, a former Trump aide.

With this event the brash billionaire made clear he wants to remain a powerful force in the Republican Party's effort to retake the Senate and House of Representatives next year.

In particular, he has signaled a willingness to help candidates who embrace his Make America Great Again movement.

In the crowd many sported shirts with slogans like "Trump 2024 -- Because America can never be too great."

"If you look at all of Trump's rallies, you'll see hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of people and there is no way a demented old man won this election," said Laura Benas, 57, a retail manager in Wellington, referring to Biden.

Trump, 75, has maintained a relatively low profile since leaving the presidency under a cloud three weeks after the deadly January 6 uprising at the US Capitol.

The House impeached Trump for inciting the insurrection -- with 10 Republicans joining Democrats in voting to oust the president -- but he was acquitted by the Senate. It was his second impeachment.

Now, Trump is calling for the scalps of those Republicans who voted to impeach him, beginning with Anthony Gonzalez, the Ohio incumbent whom Miller is challenging in a Republican primary.

Trump's Save America PAC, or political action committee, says the Ohio rally marks the first of many appearances by the ex-president "in support of candidates and causes that further the MAGA agenda and accomplishments of President Trump's administration."

Independence Day rally

Bellwether Ohio has been one of the nation's major swing states over the past century.

But after voting twice for Barack Obama, the Rust Belt state has tilted rightward, voting for Trump in 2016 and 2020.

Trump still holds sway with significant swaths of Republicans.

His relentless and baseless claims that massive fraud cost him last November's presidential election have been embraced by many in the party, and some unabashedly pro-Trump GOP politicians, notably Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, have risen in national stature.

This week Trump's PAC announced he would hold a major rally -- complete with fireworks -- in Sarasota, Florida on July 3, one day before the Independence Day holiday.

Trump will also enter the public sphere next Wednesday with a high-profile visit to the US border with Mexico, where he will hammer the Biden administration on its immigration policy.

(AFP)