Trump soft-launches his 2024 campaign

The pre-Trump headliner was Kari Lake, the former TV-news reporter running to replace Governor Doug Ducey; she alleges, falsely, that “bag loads of ballots” were dumped in Arizona last year. (“Kari Lake, she’s been with us from the beginning on the election fraud,” Trump gushed when he brought her back on stage for a cameo during his speech.) Other speakers included secretary of state candidate Mark Finchem, who was at the Capitol last January 6 and who often wears a cowboy hat and bolo-tie despite being from Michigan; Paul Gosar, Andy Biggs, and Debbie Lesko, three Trump-loving members of Congress who voted against certifying Biden’s win in 2020; and the state GOP chair Kelli Ward, who has embraced numerous conspiracy theories and recently received a cease and desist notice from Dominion Voting Systems after accusing the company of changing 6,000 Trump votes to Biden votes last year. Each of these Republicans has repeatedly echoed Trump’s false allegations of election mischief. Of course they have. This is the former president’s new litmus test: You endorse the lie; he endorses you.

Nearly everyone I interviewed at the rally vowed to follow Trump’s lead, and only support GOP candidates who endorse the false idea that he won the election. “I watched all those Republican candidates in Arizona right now covering it up.” Julie Stohldrier, who drove in with her sister Amy, told me. “They’re all talk and no action.” Lake is promising action, so the sisters adore her. The pair would love for Trump to run again in 2024, but they don’t think he will, and they’re not sure he’ll need to: They’re confident that he’ll be reinstated as president sometime soon, after Arizona and other states vote to decertify the election. “I want Trump back now,” Amy told me. “I can’t do another three years of this.”…

I asked a group of older attendees if they were excited to see Trump run again in 2024. They all were. Two of them argued about whether he could take office before 2025. “It’s not possible,” a retiree named Michael, who declined to give his last name, said. “I think it is!” a retiree named Susan Higgins said. “The military has to come in, and take [Biden] away.”