Trump hints at political comeback as he departs White House

Trump hints at political comeback as he departs White House

By Paul Steinhauser 

With a possible eye towards a potential comeback in four years, outgoing President Trump told supporters that “we will be back in some form.”

Trump, speaking Wednesday morning at a farewell rally at Joint Base Andrews before boarding Air Force One for the last time as president on a flight to his home in Florida, told a crowd of family, friends, aides and supporters that “I will always fight for you” and that “we will see you soon.”

Sixteen hours earlier, in his final video as president that was chocked full of his populist themes, Trump emphasized that “I want you to know that the movement we started is only just beginning” and he added that “the best is yet to come.”

Trump refused to concede his election defeat at the hands of incoming President Joe Biden, and on Wednesday he became the first president to skip the inauguration of his successor in a century and a half. For the past two and a half months, Trump’s repeatedly claimed without providing concrete evidence that the presidential election was “rigged” and filled with “massive fraud.”

Trump has repeatedly vowed to play an influential role in the party going forward, threatening to back primary challenges to Republicans up for reelection in 2022 who didn’t support his unsuccessful push to upend his election defeat to Biden. Trump was also flirting with a 2024 presidential run to try and win back the White House.

“It’s been an amazing four years. We are trying to do another four years. Otherwise, I’ll see you in four years,” Trump told supporters in early December at a White House holiday party for members of the Republican National Committee.

But Trump was politically wounded earlier this month, with his one-term tenure in the White House ending amid sinking public opinion approval ratings in the wake of this month’s attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Trump was impeached last week by the House and is awaiting the start of a Senate trial over his encouragement of this month’s deadly insurrection at the Capitol by far-right extremists and Trump supporters aiming to disrupt congressional certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s election victory. The storming of the Capitol resulted in the deaths of five people, including a Capitol Police officer, and widespread vandalism of the building. A conviction of Trump in a Senate trial could lead to the stripping of his ability to run ever again for federal office.

The Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol came soon after the president urged a large crowd of supporters he addressed at a rally near the White House to march to the Capitol and show strength in protesting the certification of an election he’s repeatedly and falsely claimed was “rigged.”

Taking aim at Trump, longtime Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell accused the outgoing president of inciting the insurrection on the Capitol, during a speech Tuesday on the floor of the Senate.

“The mob was fed lies,” the powerful senator from Kentucky said.  “They were provoked by the President and other powerful people.”

Trump’s approval rating sank to 34% in the final Gallup national poll of his presidency. That’s down five points from Gallup’s December poll. And Trump’s final approval rating was the lowest of his presidency in Gallup surveys

Other national polls gave Trump slightly better marks as he leaves the White House. Among them are a 43% approval rating in the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll and 41% in a USA Today/Suffolk University survey. In other live telephone operator national surveys, Trump was at 38% in an ABC News/Washington Post poll and 34% in CNN and Quinnipiac University surveys. One of the few polling organizations that the president’s praised – the automated surveys by Rasmussen Reports – put his approval rating at 51%.

Trump’s final presidential approval rating stood at 40% in an average of the final surveys compiled by Real Clear Politics.

While the latest polling indicates Trump’s approval ratings have slipped among Americans and specifically Republicans, his sway over the party he reshaped and ruled over with near-absolute authority during his four years in the White House remains immense.

“Trump still retains incredible support from those who voted for him, but his credibility has collapsed among everyone else,” veteran Republican pollster Frank Luntz told Fox News.

Trump’s numbers among GOP voters have taken a hit.

Luntz noted that “Republicans have always been the ‘law and order’ party. Their opinions of Trump have taken a hit because of continued focus on the events of Jan. 6 and their embarrassment about the violence and destruction.”

But Trump’s approval ratings among Republicans, while slipping, remain very healthy.

Trump’s approval rating among Republicans stands at a sky-high 87% in the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. Trump’s at 82% in the Gallup poll and CNN puts the outgoing president’s approval rating at 80%. He’s at 79% among Republicans in a ABC News/Washington Post survey and 73% approval in Quinnipiac University poll.

Those sentiments seem to be reflected in the actions of GOP members of Congress. Nearly two-thirds of House Republicans – even after the joint session of Congress was delayed six hours after the attack on the Capitol – objected to certifying the Electoral College results in two states that Biden narrowly edged over Trump in the presidential election. And 197 House Republicans voted last Wednesday against impeaching Trump, with just 10 GOP lawmakers joining all 222 Democrats in voting for impeachment.

According to a Pew Research national poll, 57% of Republicans want Trump to remain a major political figure for years to come. And 55% of Republicans surveyed in the USA Today/Suffolk University poll said they would definitely vote for Trump again if he ran for president in 2024. While that’s a very strong number, it’s down from 71% of Republicans who said the same thing in December.

With Trump’s political future very much up in the air, a Wednesday report by the Wall Street Journal indicated that the outgoing president is discussing forming a new political outfit called the Patriot Party.

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