Trump at MaraLago with his Potential Vice Presidential pick

Trump at MaraLago with his Potential Vice Presidential pick
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The following is a transcript of Topher’s editorial from Episode 85 of The Aussie Wire News  discussing Trump at Maralago, which aired on the 5th of March 2024.

We need to talk about Donald Trump. Today, the US Supreme Court has ruled on Trump’s eligibility to hold office, and we’ll get to that story in a moment. But to understand that story, we need first to talk about Trump. Not the man, the symbol. 

Donald Trump, whether you personally like it or not, has come to represent hope to a very significant proportion of the US population. There are many tens of millions of true believers in the US, backed by tens of millions more supporters, who are backed by tens of millions more people, saying, well, we don’t love him, but he’s better than the other guy. And if you’re wondering, I personally fit into that third group. 

I think there are a lot of valid criticisms of Donald Trump, but I still think he’s better than the other guy. But through good fortune and timing, the last time I was in the US, just a few weeks ago, I was able to attend the Trumpet’s fundraising event for Donald Trump at Mar a Lago. 

Maralago

And I need to talk to you about what I saw. Because you can’t understand US politics or the upcoming US presidential election without first understanding a little bit about what Trump has come to represent. 

Mar a Lago was, of course, beautiful, and we had to go through three different secret service checks, including airport-style security. Everything from the music to the food and the decorations were absolutely first-class. But you expected that already. This was a room full of true believers. But what I didn’t expect was the level of fervour from multimillionaires in their fifty s and sixty’s. 

Maralago

I watched in astonishment as these well-healed, successful people, some famous in their own right, you might recognise some were competing with each other to hold a spot at the velvet rope in the hope of shaking Trump’s hand.

Maralago

Personally, I abandoned the velvet rope. It was just too absurd for me. So I took a step back and started filming on my phone. And that’s what you’ll be watching in just a moment. Now, my purpose in filming was not so much to film Trump, but to film the circus that surrounds him.

Maralago

Of course, there are layers of security and secret service. And yes, I’ll reiterate, this was a room full of true believers, so, of course, you’d expect them to be enthusiastic. But these people are mature, aged, wealthy, and often famous in their own right, and they wanted nothing more than to encourage Donald Trump and to financially support Donald Trump. And he’s a man far wealthier than most of them. They wanted to empower Donald Trump, even though he’s already more powerful than most of them are or ever will be. And therein lies both the enigma and the key. 

A similar circus surrounds someone like Taylor Swift. But people want to meet Taylor Swift for themselves, to show off to their friends, to say they’ve done it. And sure, there is certainly some of that in this room, but if you could hear what they were saying in those brief encounters, what these people want is to use that momentary interaction to encourage Trump, to thank him, to pledge their unwavering support, no matter what happens to him in the courts, and to urge him to keep going for their sakes. 

See, Donald Trump isn’t so much a celebrity as he is a symbol, ironically, a symbol of hope and change. And this room full of wealthy and powerful people are pledging to use their wealth and power to support an even more wealthy and powerful person in the form of Donald Trump. Why? Why would they do that? Well, because they see their future as intrinsically linked with his. And it’s not just the rich and powerful who feel that way. 

I mean, sure, the rich and powerful were the ones in this particular room, but we see from his rallies that Trump is supported by tens of millions of Americans from all walks of life. And Trump is now a veteran political campaigner. He is savvy and he’s playing his cards very carefully. 

One of the most important decisions that a US presidential candidate makes is who they will choose to be their vice presidential running mate. 

Maralago

It is vitally important to pick a VP who appeals to a different but sympathetic demographic. It has to make sense that that person is your running mate. But at the same time, there’s no point picking someone who’s just going to appeal to only the exact same people. 

That’s why it was interesting to me when Donald Trump walked into the Trumpet’s event with Vivek Ramaswami. Vivek, of course, was Trump’s opponent in the primaries earlier on, but he failed to poll well and he bowed out early. It would appear that Vivek has since then been angling for the VP pick on Team Trump. 

Maralago

Now, Vivek and Trump had had dinner together elsewhere at Mar a Lago before coming into the great hall to the Trumpetzi vet where we were. And the dinner must have gone well because Trump was over an hour late in arriving into our room. That says that that was a pretty good dinner. They walked in together, which was always going to ignite a firestorm of speculation, and Trump knows that. 

So this was a deliberate tactical move. Either he’s foreshadowing who his VP pick is going to be, or he recognises that the speculation is a good thing in and of itself. Vivek as VP makes sense in some ways. Vivek is far younger, he’s a minority, which shouldn’t matter, but sadly, it seems like it does. He’s very intelligent, articulate, and he’s clean. Picking Vivek as his VP would do a lot to clean up Trump’s image.

But the problem is that if you drew a Venn diagram of Vivek supporters and Trump supporters, Vivek’s circle would be almost entirely contained within Trump’s. It’s hard to argue that Vivek would bring a lot of new voters to Trump, except for the third rail. Robert F Kennedy Jr. He’s running as an independent. And third party or independent candidates have in the past, changed the outcome of US presidential elections because they don’t have a preferential system like what we have in Australia. So each new candidate splits the vote. 

This can be a real problem when you have two candidates who appeal to similar psychographics because they might accidentally split their majority support, and now a minority candidate wins. Now, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is a strong independent candidate, potentially the strongest that we’ve ever seen. He’s polling well, people are listening to him, and he has the Kennedy name, one of the most valuable names in US politics, certainly on the Democratic side. But what makes Robert F. Kennedy Jr. a little bit special is that he appeals not only to the disillusioned democrats, but he makes a lot of sense to conservatives and even the Republicans who may not necessarily love the idea of another Trump presidency. 

So Trump is at risk of losing votes to this third rail. Robert F Kennedy Jr. And Trump can’t allow that to happen. But what do you do about it? Well, it’s actually in that context that it starts to make sense to me that Trump might use his VP pick as a defensive move against Robert F Kennedy Jr. And in that context, Vivek Ramaswami starts to make a lot of sense. 

Vivek and RFK Jr. Have a lot in common. They’ve said a lot of similar things. They advocate a lot of similar things. And there would be a proportion of Kennedy supporters who might be planning to vote for Kennedy right now, but they could be persuaded not to throw away their vote on a third-party candidate and switch to voting for Trump if Vivek were Trump’s vice presidential pick. 

So to wrap up and summarise what I saw at the Trumpet’s event in Mar a Lago last month, I saw exactly the kind of hype and passion that you would expect. But I also saw a savvy political operator who, in my opinion, is very aware of the task in front of him and is taking nothing for granted for political junkies like me, this is going to be a very interesting year.

You can watch this episode of The Aussie Wire News here


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