FLORENCE, Ariz. - Former President Trump returned to Arizona as the keynote speaker at a rally in Florence on Jan. 15.
The former president was drumming up support for Arizona Republicans running for office.
GOP gubernatorial candidates, like Matt Salmon and Kari Lake attended the evening event, which was the first rally of the year for Trump and the first time he's spoken at a rally since October. Even a year after he left the White House, he's expected to play a big part in the midterm elections this fall.
"We've had more problems, we've had more destruction than five presidents put together in the last year," he said.
Trump continues to falsely claim he won the 2020 election, but more than a year later, there is no proof of wide-spread voter fraud.
So is re-hashing the 2020 election a helpful strategy for Republicans? It's something political consultants are examining every day. Will this mantra of unfinished business surrounding the 2020 election help or harm the future of the Republican Party?
"Oh, that's a big crowd out there, I will tell you what, the cars are stretched they say 25 miles," said Trump.
Trump took the center stage, taking aim at several issues, including President Joe Biden's handling of the border, the coronavirus pandemic, withdrawal from Afghanistan, and the economy.
Event organizers say the 'Save America' rally is to help advance the MAGA agenda by energizing voters and to also highlight Republican candidates and causes for the upcoming election.
"These decisions they're making, they're wrecking and devastating people's lives, firing Americans from their jobs, forcing innocent children to grow up in masks," said Trump.
Although returning as a former president, he has thousands of supporters in the state. According to the Federal Election Commission, just over 9,000 state residents have donated more than $441,000 to his Save America PAC through the first six months of last year.
"You either love him or you hate him. There are very few people that feel shoulder shrug about the whole thing"… The 2022 election will be about where the energy is among voters and the Donald Trump voters at this point look most engaged," said Stan Barnes, president of Copper State Consulting Group.
The former president lost by less than half a point to Joe Biden, becoming the first Republican presidential nominee to lose Arizona in 24 years.
Ever since, the state has become ground zero for Trump's false claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him by Democrats, which was a main theme at the rally.
Some say bringing that back up could harm the Republican Party's future, while others say it will actually help candidates.
"So even those candidates that don't particularly like Donald Trump are trying to embrace him on the Republican side because that's where the votes are," said Barnes.
Several Republicans spoke at the rally, including conservative lawmakers and a couple candidates running for state positions who Trump has already endorsed.
"Does Donald Trump get you to office or not with his endorsement and the conventional wisdom I share is Donald Trump helps a lot.. and if Donald Trump's on your team in the general election that’s going to be the target of your opponents," said Barnes.
Some followers are hoping Trump will announce whether he is running again for president, gaining support by holding these rallies – something he has been teasing, but not given a firm answer to yet.
More Arizona politics:
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- No charges for 151 Arizona votes vetted over 2020 election fraud claims
- Arizona Heartbeat Act: Pro-choice group concerned over bill that aims to stop most abortions in the state
- Higher education, border security spending proposed in Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey's final budget plan
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