Over the weekend, former President Donald Trump returned to a big stage for the first time since leaving the White House, but it wasn’t quite the grand return he originally hoped for.
Speaking with NPR, a former spokesperson for the Republican National Committee explained that Trump’s took place at the North Carolina state Republican convention instead of his large, arena-filling rallies he was so used to in 2016.
Trump was in Greenville, North Carolina to give a speech before Republican activists, and North Carolina native and former RNC spokesperson Doug Heye said that viewers in person and on CSPAN, one of the networks offering live coverage, could guess beforehand what Trump was going talk about:
“We know exactly what he’s going to say — the election was rigged, stolen. He’ll tease running for president again. ‘Wouldn’t you love me to run again? Well, I’m thinking about it….’ And he’ll take shots at those who voted to impeach [him].”
Heye also took a jab at Trump for choosing the smaller venue of the state GOP convention for his first speech in months outside of his Mar-a-Lago resort home:
“That Trump is doing a state party convention makes sense. It’s a controlled environment and doesn’t risk the empty seats he could have at a rally — no more football stadiums.”
Heye was likely referring to a June, 2020 rally in Tulsa that was widely mocked for incredibly poor turnout after his campaign spent the days leading up to it claiming that it was overbooked.
NPR explains more of the content of Trump’s remarks in North Carolina:
“The 2020 presidential election, that election, the 2020 presidential election, was by far the most corrupt election in the history of our country,” Trump baselessly claimed in a speech before the North Carolina Republican Party, continuing his false grievance about an election he lost.
He said Democrats “used COVID” and “used mail-in ballots to steal an election.” He called it a “third-world election, like we’ve never seen before.” He derided it as the “crime of the century” and claimed that the “country is being destroyed, perhaps by people who have no right to destroy it.”
And then, as he continued to try and undermine the democratic process with lies about an election that his former top cybersecurity official called the “most secure” in history, he did what he often does with a vulnerability — he tried to flip and embrace it.
“I’m not the one trying to undermine democracy,” Trump said, “I am the one who’s trying to save it, please remember that.”
That received his biggest applause of the night.
The aforementioned 2020 rally in Tulsa likely signaled the end of the Trump rallies as they had previously been known, not only because of Coronavirus limitations, as Trump and his supporters ignored that problem anyway, but because of Trump’s waning popularity, even among his base.
That rally was an utter disaster as well, as the Trump campaign lied about ticket sales and attendance.
Donald Trump’s campaign manager Brad Parscale offered up some conflicting figures on how many tickets had been registered for the rally. Parscale’s claimed that 800,000 tickets have been claimed, but the venue for the rally only seats 19,200.
“Trump #MAGA Rally in Tulsa is hottest ticket ever! Over 200K tickets already & it’s not even political season,” Parscale tweeted.
He then added that the campaign was “looking at the 2nd event in town to get more people to be with Donald Trump.”
A few hours later Parscale tweeted “Correction now 300,000! Going to be epic!”
Parscale then tweeted, “just passed 800,000,” calling it the “biggest data haul and rally signup of all time by 10x.”
Shortly after Parscale made the second tweet, Trump announced that he was pushing the event back a day from June 19 to the 20th.
“We have already had ticket requests in excess of 200,000 people. I look forward to seeing everyone in Oklahoma!” Trump tweeted.