“Trump Rally Underscores G.O.P. Tension Over How to Win in 2022”


Former President Donald J. Trump returned on Saturday to Arizona, a cradle of his political movement, to headline a rally in the desert that was a striking testament to how he has elevated fringe beliefs and the politicians who spread them — even as other Republicans openly worry that voters will ultimately punish their party for it.

Mr. Trump’s favored candidate for governor, Kari Lake, is a first-time office seeker who has threatened to jail the state’s top elections official. His chosen candidate to replace that elections official, a Democrat, is a state legislator named Mark Finchem, who was with a group of demonstrators outside the Capitol on Jan. 6 as rioters tried to stop the certification of the 2020 election.

And one of his most unflinching defenders in Congress is Representative Paul Gosar, who was censured by his colleagues for posting an animated video online that depicted him killing a Democratic congresswoman and assaulting President Biden.

All three spoke at Mr. Trump’s rally in front of thousands of supporters on Saturday in the town of Florence, outside Phoenix. It was the first stadium-style political event he has held so far in this midterm election year in which he will try to deepen his imprint on Republicans running for office at all levels.

When Mr. Trump took the stage in the evening, he lavished praise on the slate of election-denier candidates in attendance. And he suggested that perpetuating his grievances about being cheated would be a decisive issue for Republican candidates.

“We can’t let them get away with it,” Mr. Trump said. Then, he added, referring to Ms. Lake and her rejection of the 2020 results: “I think it’s one of the reasons she’s doing so well.”

But as popular as the former president remains with the core of the G.O.P.’s base, his involvement in races from Arizona to Pennsylvania — and his inability to let go of his loss to Mr. Biden — has veteran Republicans in Washington and beyond concerned. They worry that Mr. Trump is imperiling their chances in what should be a highly advantageous political climate, with Democrats deeply divided over their policy agenda and Americans taking a generally pessimistic view of Mr. Biden’s leadership a year into his presidency.

Share this: