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Trump Attracts Crowd for Wildwood Rally

Donald J. Trump for President 2024 Inc.
Donald Trump attracted thousands of supporters to the beach in Wildwood Saturday, May 11, for a campaign rally.

By Shay Roddy

WILDWOOD – After a grueling week in a Manhattan criminal courtroom, Donald Trump received a well-timed boost from a fervent and loyal crowd of supporters who packed the beach for the former president’s campaign rally in Wildwood.

The seaside resort felt a lot like summer on Saturday, May 11, despite the fact that Memorial Day weekend and the unofficial kickoff to the season are still two weeks away. Rides on Morey’s Piers were operating, boardwalk vendors were open, the tram cars were running and parking was at a premium due to the buzz over Trump’s visit.

Shops on the Wildwood Boardwalk transformed into outlets for Trump flags, T-shirts and Trump’s signature red ‘Make American Great Again’ hats. Photo Credit: Shay Roddy

The former president spent most of his week on trial listening to salacious and detailed testimony given by the porn star Stormy Daniels about an alleged 2006 affair Trump had with her, which he denies.

The case, brought by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, accuses Trump of falsifying business records to hide that he reimbursed his former lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, for a $130,000 hush money payment Cohen made to Daniels, after it was learned the actress was shopping the affair story to tabloids just before the 2016 election.

The hush money case is one of four indictments Trump is currently under, something Trump addressed in Wildwood when he told the crowd he has been indicted more times than the gangster Al Capone, a man he described as “so mean that if you went to dinner with him and he didn’t like you you’d be dead the next morning. And I got indicted more than him! On bulls—t too. Just bulls—t!”

Chants of “Bulls—t! Bulls—t!” echoed from the crowd.

Trump, who the judge noted was angrily and audibly cursing at the defense table as Daniels testified in great detail about the alleged tryst, learned Friday that when the weekend ends, prosecutors will call the key witness in the case, his old friend Cohen. Cohen, now disbarred, has major credibility issues stemming in part from prior admissions of lying under oath. Recently, he has been appearing on TikTok wearing a T-shirt depicting an illustration of Trump behind prison bars.

Add to that the fact that New York Supreme Court Justice Juan M. Merchan threatened Trump this week with prison time if he persists in violating a limited gag order, and tensions for the former president were boiling.

Perhaps then the answer to a question — Why Wildwood? — that puzzled many campaign watchers is simple.

After all, Trump lost New Jersey by 16 points in 2020 and 13 points in 2016. The Garden State hasn’t gone red in a presidential election since 1988. With limited time to campaign given his busy trial schedule, wouldn’t he get more bang for his buck in a battleground state?

Perhaps, but Trump likely hasn’t forgotten the successful campaign rally he had in the city’s Convention Center in January 2020. While New Jersey may not be Trump Country, Cape May County and Wildwood are. Trump didn’t hesitate to tell the tens of thousands assembled how he felt about the area and how important he feels he is to its future.

“We love the Shore,” he said. “I know the Shore better than most of the people that are here, I hate to tell you that. There’s nothing like it. If you want to keep it going, you have to vote for a gentleman named Donald J. Trump. Have you heard of him?”

The crowd roared.

Estimates for the turnout varied, with Trump saying from the stage there were over 100,000 people there to see him. A spokesperson for the city estimated 80,000 showed up. Before the event, Mayor Ernie Troiano Jr. said the event could accommodate 40,000.

A crowd of supporters listen to Donald Trump speak at a campaign rally in Wildwood Saturday, May 11. Photo Credit: Donald J. Trump for President 2024 Inc.

U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew, who switched from Democrat to Republican in 2019 and pledged his “undying support” for Trump, said the rally was the largest political gathering in state history and would serve as a show of force at a critical moment for Trump, facing the multiple prosecutions and months away from a presidential election.

Whatever the number, the turnout was impressive, and a beach town that is no stranger to throwing big parties was up to the task. Bars, merchandise vendors, restaurants, amusement piers, parking lot owners, hotels and other local businesses welcomed the preseason bonus.

Also perhaps playing into the Trump campaign’s strategy in selecting Wildwood is its proximity to Philadelphia, an important area in the key battleground state of Pennsylvania. Not only are many Pennsylvania residents second homeowners in Cape May County, but Wildwood is in the Philadelphia media market, and the rally was covered by all major Philadelphia news outlets.

Trump Targets and Talking Points

For the most part Trump’s remarks followed his familiar unscripted script. He would meander and apparently ad-lib between talking points loaded into his teleprompters, recalling a story of a recent campaign stop where he lost the prompters due to wind and “winged it” for an hour and a half.

Turning his focus to a consistent target of his wrath, he chided the news media, saying they have consistently failed to capture the size of the crowd supporting him and that he wished there was no press there at all, since the press staging area was obstructing the view of some of his supporters.

He also criticized press coverage of immigration across the southern border and of his approach to NATO allies who were behind on their bills while he was president, labeling reporters “fools” and branding coverage “fake news.”

Trump attacked Biden, evoking the catchphrase he coined during his years as host of NBC’s “The Apprentice.”

“I’m going to look at that guy and I’m going to say, ‘Joe Biden, you’re the worst ever. Joe Biden, you’re fired! Get out of here,’” he told the crowd.

The former president blamed his Oval Office successor for an “inflation death spiral,” criticized Biden’s policies at the southern border, promised tax cuts if elected, and said he would terminate the Green New Deal, referring to it as the “Green New Scam.”

“We’re going to drill, baby, drill!” Trump exclaimed.

He blasted offshore wind plans, claiming the wind farm projects lead to whale deaths, which is refuted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. He called offshore wind “the most expensive energy there is.”

“You won’t have to worry about Gov. Murphy’s 157 windmills. And you know one of the best fighters on that is Congressman Van Drew. He has fought so hard,” Trump said. “We are going to make sure that that ends on day one. I’m going to write it out in an executive order.”

He again focused in on Murphy’s statewide clean energy initiatives, promising gas-powered vehicles will remain available on the New Jersey marketplace.

“Unfortunately, the Democrats in New Jersey have embraced Joe Biden’s radical, pro-China plan to eliminate gas-powered cars and trucks. Can you believe it?” he said. “I will immediately terminate Joe Biden’s insane electric vehicle mandate, and there will be no ban on gas cars and gas trucks in the Garden State. There will be no ban anywhere in the United States of America on gas. You can buy electric if you want.”

Trump criticized electric vehicles for their price, their range and that “they’re going to be made in China,” although the Wall Street Journal reported May 10 that the Biden administration plans to “raise tariffs on clean-energy goods from China in the coming days, with the levy on Chinese electric vehicles set to roughly quadruple.” He said China is building automobile plants in Mexico to avoid the tariff.

He said any New Jersey residents planning to drive an electric vehicle to Palm Beach, Florida, to join him for a round of golf may need to reconsider.

“You’ll make about 10 stops. You’ll be very late. Your tee time will be long expired,” he joked.

He blamed Biden’s energy policies for causing inflation, also claiming that an increase in oil prices has helped bankroll Russia’s war in Ukraine and arguing that the war will not end until the price of oil comes down.

Trump also pointed to what he considers to be other foreign policy mismanagement by the Biden administration, claiming if he had been reelected China would not be apparently ramping up for an invasion of Taiwan and Hamas would not have attacked Israel Oct. 7, though he offered little to support those sweeping statements.

He was critical of Biden’s recent comments in a CNN interview with the anchor Erin Burnett in which the president cautioned Israel that the U.S. would not supply certain weapons if it invades Rafah, the southernmost city on the Gaza strip.

Trump called Biden’s comments “one of the worst betrayals of an American ally in the history of our country. I support Israel’s right to win its war on terror. Is that OK? I don’t know. I don’t know if that’s good or bad politically. I don’t care; you got to do what’s right.”

He called the withdrawal of the last U.S. troops from Afghanistan in August 2021 Biden’s “most embarrassing moment.”

And he thanked the Supreme Court justices who voted to overturn Roe v. Wade and return abortion legislation to the states.

Christie Hammered

Former Gov. Chris Christie, a longtime Trump ally turned fierce critic, did not escape the rally unscathed. Though he no longer poses any threat to Trump’s candidacy aside from any persuasive power he may have through television news appearances, Trump took a couple of personal shots at Christie while visiting his home state.

Christie endorsed Trump in the 2016 election, after dropping out of the Republican primary, had an instrumental role in preparing Trump for debates with Hillary Clinton, and led Trump’s 2016 presidential transition team.

However, President Trump passed over Christie for several key appointed positions and distance grew between the two. Christie did again help Trump with prep for a debate in the 2020 election against Biden, according to his book, but when Trump did not accept the results of that election and refused to concede, a position that allegedly culminated in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, Christie and Trump became vocal critics of one another.

Christie signed a pledge to vote for the 2024 Republican nominee, a prerequisite implemented by the party to participate in primary debates, but he has since said he would not vote for Trump under any circumstances. Last month, Christie ruled out a third-party run, saying the possibility his third-party candidacy could help Trump was reason enough to sit out. He had dropped his campaign to become the Republican nominee prior to the New Hampshire primary, when he trailed Trump and Nikki Haley in the polls.

During his Wildwood rally, Trump recalled an interaction he had with a supporter on the campaign trail in New Hampshire, as a way to take a personal shot at Christie.

“Somebody from the front row said, ‘Sir, he’s a fat pig.’ … I said, ‘You cannot call Chris Christie a fat pig. You cannot do that. Please, sir, if you call him a fat pig once more, I’m going to have to have you leave the arena.’ And the guy didn’t know what was happening. I said, ‘Don’t worry about it, I’m only kidding.'”

When making his claim about the whale deaths at the hands of offshore wind projects, Trump again echoed an insulting comment about Christie that was shouted at him from the crowd.

“He said [the whales] remind him of Chris Christie,” said Trump with a smile.

He brought up Christie a third time, making fun of Bruce Springsteen’s frosty attitude toward the former Republican governor, despite Christie’s fawning over the rock star, an outspoken Democrat. Trump also snuck in a dig at “the Boss”: “We have a much bigger crowd than Bruce Springsteen,” he said.

Gag Order

Prosecutors from Manhattan District Attorney Bragg’s office were likely paying close attention to Trump’s remarks in Wildwood, which lasted about 90 minutes. Trump is under a limited gag order issued by Merchan, the judge overseeing the hush-money trial, an order Trump has called unfair and flouted, though he has recently shown more restraint after having been found to have violated it 10 times, with the judge threatening jail time “as a last resort.”

Merchan directly addressed Trump in court May 6 and threatened the former president with jail for further violations. The judge said he does not have the authority to issue Trump larger fines and that although he is aware of the magnitude of a decision to jail “the former president of the United States, and possibly the next president as well,” he also has the responsibility to “protect the dignity of the justice system.”

Trump limited the comments he made about the trial or his other legal woes during the rally. The gag order bars him from discussing witnesses, jurors, prosecutors, court staff, the judge’s family or relatives of the district attorney.

He also blamed Biden for the criminal indictments he is facing, saying even though some of the cases have been brought “by local DAs,” those “local DAs are run out of Washington.”

Then, Trump called Bragg “Fat Alvin” and said he is “corrupt.”

Meanwhile, the president was in Seattle for a fundraising stop, after hitting San Francisco Friday, May 10.

Biden said in a recent interview with Howard Stern that he would debate Trump, something Trump had already said he would do despite being a no-show for the Republican primary debates.

No word yet on when a debate will be scheduled.

Contact the reporter, Shay Roddy, at sroddy@cmcherald.com or 609-886-8600, ext. 142.

Reporter

Shay Roddy is a Delaware County, Pennsylvania native who has always spent as much of his summers as he could at the Jersey Shore. He went to Friends’ Central and is a graduate of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University.

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