Trump, GOP return to border to rev up base


Former President Trump on Wednesday will travel to South Texas, where he’s expected to showcase his signature border wall and attack the Biden administration over the surge of migrants — a topic the GOP sees as a potent campaign issue to rev up the base and win back the House and Senate in 2022.

Trump will be joined in the Rio Grande Valley by some familiar conservative allies. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R), who has vowed to complete Trump’s wall with state funds and private donations, will host the former president in Weslaco for a roundtable discussion on border security. Then the pair will tour the border wall, accompanied by two dozen House members of the Republican Study Committee (RSC), led by Chairman Jim Banks (R-Ind.).

Later Wednesday afternoon, Trump and Abbott will participate in a town hall, moderated by Fox News host Sean Hannity and attended by supporters, in a hangar in the South Texas International Airport in Edinburg.

“Republicans understand what a severe case of invasion and illegal behavior we have at the border. And the Biden administration has done nothing about it,” said Rep. Roger Williams (R-Texas), who will be among the RSC members who will join Trump at the border.

Trump “is going to reemphasize that we should continue to build the wall and that catch-and-release needs to be stopped.”

The Lone Star State is just the latest stop for Trump as he embarks on a jam-packed summer of campaign rallies and other public appearances and continues to flirt with a 2024 presidential comeback campaign.

Earlier this month, Trump shocked his party at a North Carolina rally by making a surprise endorsement of little-known Rep. Ted Budd in the GOP primary for an open Senate seat. On Saturday, Trump had revenge on his mind, campaigning in Ohio against a fellow Republican, Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, who voted to impeach the 45th president and still speaks out against Trump’s election lies.

And Trump will celebrate the Fourth of July weekend with a big campaign rally at the fairgrounds in Sarasota, Fla., his adopted home state.

More than five months after leaving the White House, Trump has made clear he remains the de facto leader of the Republican Party; plans to play the role of kingmaker and reward loyalists in congressional, gubernatorial and other statewide races; and will have a major hand in shaping the party agenda as GOP leaders look to take back control of both chambers of Congress in next year’s midterm elections.

“He’s definitely the leader of the party,” Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) said on ABC’s “This Week” after Trump drew a big crowd at his rally in the Buckeye State.

Trump’s Texas visit will be a victory lap of sorts. For months, Trump and Republicans hammered Vice President Harris for failing to visit the border after President Biden tapped her to spearhead the administration’s response to a surge in Central American migrants, many of them children, crossing the border illegally.

Harris, a former California senator and state attorney general who has had years of experience handling border issues, refused to kowtow to GOP demands, even as several groups of Senate and House GOP lawmakers staged press conferences and photo ops at the border to blast the vice president’s inaction.

But on Friday, after news of Trump’s planned visit, Harris relented, traveling to El Paso, Texas, to meet with border agents and tour a migrant processing center. Harris’s team argued the vice president was not caving to pressure — Harris herself insisted she was focused on the “root causes” of the surge from Central America — but Trump and his GOP allies chalked it up as a symbolic victory.

“Kamala Harris, your vice president, only went to the border yesterday for the one simple reason: that I announced that I was going,” Trump told the crowd at his rally in Wellington, Ohio.

“If I didn’t do that, I don’t know if she was ever going to go.”

This will mark Trump’s first visit to the border since leaving the White House. He last visited the McAllen area on Jan. 12, just days before his term ended. It was his last trip as president outside of Washington.

But Trump’s return to the Rio Grande Valley is not just about touting the construction of his prized border wall. In 2020, Trump lost the White House but Republicans made unexpected inroads with Hispanic voters in the Rio Grande Valley, a rural region in the southern tip of Texas that had been dominated by Democrats in past elections.

Republicans got another boost this month when Republican Javier Villalobos defeated Democrat Veronica Vela Whitacre by roughly 200 votes in the mayoral race in McAllen, which is 85 percent Hispanic.

So Trump and Republicans will look to expand their support among rural Latinos in the region as they vie to hold on to power in the critical state of Texas.

“The president made tremendous inroads in the Hispanic vote down in the Valley,” said Williams, who has been making trips to the border since 2005 when he was appointed Texas secretary of state. “They think like we Republicans do: They want less government, and they want to be free to realize their dreams, and these Democrats have taken that for granted.”

“Border security is No. 1 with them,” he added. “They don’t support law-breaking, and they don’t support people running through the ports of entry and destroying property.”

Tags 2024 Anthony Gonzalez Border Donald Trump Joe Biden Rob Portman Roger Williams Sean Hannity Ted Budd Texas Trump base Trump rally
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