Trump is taking his 2024 campaign to Jersey Shore

WILDWOOD, NJ – The Garden State isn’t often in the national spotlight during a presidential election, but former President Donald Trump brought his campaign here Saturday, holding a rally on a South Jersey beach near Pennsylvania.

“As you can see, we are expanding the electoral maps today as we will officially be playing in the state of New Jersey. We’re going to take the state of New Jersey,” Trump told the crowd, standing on stage in front of a backdrop of carnival rides. “Millions of people in so-called blue states are joining our movement based on love, intelligence and so-called common sense.”

Trump started Saturday’s rally more than an hour after the scheduled 5 p.m. start time and spoke for about 90 minutes. His remarks touched on familiar topics, such as the hush money trial in New York this week where adult film star Stormy Daniels testified about an alleged sexual encounter, which Trump denied. He also repeated baseless claims that the 2020 election was “rigged.”

Trump also made several local references; he invited New Jersey GOP Rep. Jeff Van Drew on stage, calling him a “star,” and repeatedly attacked former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and current Gov. Phil Murphy. He also said he would “become a radical Marxist district attorney” like Larry Krasner, the Philadelphia district attorney who has become the target of significant GOP ire in Pennsylvania.

U.S. Congressman Jeff Van Drew speaks during former President Donald Trump’s campaign rally on Wildwood Beach, Saturday, May 11, 2024. (Photo by Tim Hawk)

Just over a mile away from Trump’s speech, conservative talk radio station TalkRadio 1210 WPHT Philadelphia hosted an event at Mulligan’s Shore Bar and Grill. Rich Zeoli, the station’s afternoon host, said the crowd of about 200 people was evenly split between New Jersey and Pennsylvanians.

He said Trump’s comments on the economy have received the most positive response.

“I think when he talked about grocery prices, when he talked about food prices, I think the economy is still the issue, really, more than anything else,” Zeoli told the Capital-Star. “This will be the issue that drives everyone.”

He added that Trump’s comments about wind turbines also received a very positive response from the crowd, who said it was an energy issue that was critical to both New Jersey residents and Pennsylvanians who vacation in the area.

Although Trump occasionally delivered his usual speech, he made many references that he had not made at previous rallies in the Keystone State:

  • Over the past few years, Trump has criticized mail-in voting but insisted those in attendance embrace it, even as he continued to call it “corrupt.” Trump said the “election season” begins on Sept. 16 because of early voting, but added that if he wins a second term, he wants to have one day to vote using paper ballots, proof of citizenship and voter ID.
  • During Trump’s last visit to Pennsylvania a month ago, he made no mention of abortion. On Saturday, he thanked the six Supreme Court justices — three of whom he appointed — who ruled on the Dobbs decision, which overturned Roe v. Wade. He described abortion as a “very divisive issue” but said the decision to leave the issue to the states was the right decision.
  • Trump has often criticized Biden for his administration’s economic policies, but he spent a lot of time on Saturday clarifying the issue. “On day one, we will throw out Bidenomics and bring back MAGAnomics,” he said. Trump also disagreed with Biden’s pledge to roll back the 2017 tax reform law signed into law during his administration. Biden hit out at Trump over the policy during the campaign in Pennsylvania.
  • A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Trump lamented what he called “riots” at his alma mater. On Friday morning, Philadelphia police disbanded a two-week camp of pro-Palestinian protesters. Although Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro called for a dissolution and stated that the situation was “out of control”, there were no reports of riots at the university.

With less than six months until the general election, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have made numerous visits Pennsylvania. Trump has been largely sidelined from the campaign over the past few weeks due to his trial in New York.

Saturday was Trump’s first rally in New Jersey in 2024, but he has campaigned in the state in previous cycles. In January 2020 Trump held a rally at the Wildwood Convention Center and criticized Democrats for their efforts to impeach him.

According to national media outlets like The Trump, Trump is unlikely to win Cook Political Report who rates the state as “Solidly Democratic.” New Jersey hasn’t voted for a Republican presidential candidate since 1988, and Trump has lost the state by double digits each time he has been his party’s presidential nominee.

Former President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally on Wildwood Beach, Saturday, May 11, 2024. Photo: Tim Hawk

However, Emerson College Survey a comparison of Biden and Trump conducted in overdue March showed that in New Jersey, Biden was ahead of Trump by only 7 points, while 15% of respondents were undecided. Biden led Trump by 5 points when the poll included third-party candidates such as Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Jill Stein and Cornel West. Time will tell which third-party candidates will be on the ballot in New Jersey.

Even if New Jersey isn’t on the radar of most election pundits, Wildwood is a popular destination for vacationers in the Philadelphia region, and Trump’s rally will attract residents of the key Keystone State and media coverage of the market.

Zeoli told the Capital-Star that he thought holding a rally on the Jersey shore to include multiple media markets was a strategic move. He added that this location could also be a way for Trump to thank Van Drew, who changed parties in the previous election campaign and supported Trump’s candidacy.

Trump last appeared in Pennsylvania on April 13, when he attended and organized a fundraiser in Bucks County so in the purple Lehigh Valley. He made three visits to Pennsylvania in 2024, including a surprise appearance in Philadelphia at Sneaker Con in February.

Last week, Trump conducted media interviews in the Pennsylvania and New Jersey markets, including a televised interview with WGAL, based in Harrisburg and radio interviews with TalkRadio 1210 WPHT Philadelphia AND New Jersey 101.5.

Trump received encouraging numbers in Pennsylvania this week, with polling by: AARP of Pennsylvania AND Muhlenberg College showing him a slight advantage over Biden, while US Senator Bob Casey (Pennsylvania) maintains the lead over Republican challenger David McCormick.

Since Trump last appeared in the state, Biden has visited Pennsylvania three times for campaign events Philadelphia, PittsburghAND Scrantonbringing the president’s total number of trips to the Keystone State in 2024 to seven.

On Wednesday, Harris organized a campaign event in suburban Philadelphia, where she was joined by actress and singer Sheryl Lee Ralph to discuss abortion and reproductive rights.

‘We need to have these conversations out thunderous’: VP Harris talks about abortion in Pennsylvania

From the end of April The Biden campaign has opened 24 coordinated campaign offices throughout Pennsylvania, including red areas like York and Lancaster. Trump doesn’t appear to have opened any campaign offices in Pennsylvania yet, although his campaign management recently said they prefer to run a “more streamlined” operation than in past campaigns.

Ahead of Trump’s visit on Saturday, Biden campaign officials held a call with reporters on Friday that included the Democratic congresswoman from New Jersey Mikey Sherril. She blew Trump away business record in New Jersey.

“I suspect when Trump holds his rally in Wildwood, you’ll see a lot of people from outside our state because here in our state we know that Trump has filed for bankruptcy five times,” Sherrill said. “That he really undermined the economic viability of Atlantic City, that he didn’t pay workers, that he didn’t pay contractors, that small businesses went bankrupt because of broken promises.”

And if anyone was in any doubt, the audience was mostly from Philadelphia and surrounding counties, most notably when Trump welcomed former New York giants Lawrence Taylor and Ottis Anderson to the rally. While the former players were on stage, chants of “EAGLES” erupted from the crowd.

Update: This article was updated at 8:30 p.m., May 11, 2024, with rally details and again at 10:44 p.m.

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