The election is over, but the Donald Trump rallies continue

By John Wagner, Jenna Johnson

The line of Donald Trump fans eagerly waiting in the cold outside a rally venue has returned. So, too, have the "Make America Great Again" hats and campaign signs. And the vendors selling anti-Hillary Clinton buttons and T-shirts proclaiming: "Hillary for prison." And protests organised by at least three different groups, including one that calls itself "Socialist Alternative Cincinnati."

Just because the election is over doesn't mean that the president-elect is done campaigning or rallying his most devoted supporters. Trump is currently host his first post-election rally in a downtown arena kicking off what his staff is calling the "Donald J. Trump USA Thank You Tour 2016," a victory lap through states that he won.

While many presidents-elect before him have used the weeks between Election Day and Inauguration Day to promote policy ideas and reach out to Americans who voted for someone else, Trump seems intent instead on getting his base of support even more excited for his term.

"What presidents-elects often do is they try to create the impression that there's a healing period now, that there's a coming together," said Robert Dallek, a presidential historian. "The impulse generally has been to create a new sense of shared national unity, rather than to show a divided country. That's why there's usually not an impulse to hold these rallies."

After George W. Bush was first elected in 2000, he held a series of roundtable discussions that focused on themes of his campaign, such as tax cuts, education reform and faith-based initiatives. Bush was joined by experts in these fields who shared their thoughts on what he should do as president, as reporters listened.

In 2009, President-elect Barack Obama took a whistle-stop tour on his way to the inauguration, starting in Philadelphia and traveling by train through Delaware and Maryland before arriving in Washington. He followed part of the route taken by Abraham Lincoln on his way from Illinois to the 1861 inauguration. At stops along the way, Obama told crowds about the challenges facing the country.

Ari Fleischer, a former press secretary to Bush, said that this short period is one of great opportunity for new presidents-to-be, as Americans are immensely interested in what they have to say, are not yet tired of them and are searching for clues as to how the next four years will play out. Trump has an opportunity to use his rallies and the national spotlight to share his vision and policy ideas, while connecting with Americans on a more rawly emotional level.

"It's an intense period that will never be repeated," Fleischer said.

For Trump, massive, rowdy political rallies - especially those held in down-on-their-luck industrial towns - were the hallmark of his candidacy. In town after town, Trump would stand at a simple lectern before thousands of screaming supporters and share his grand promises of wealth and winning, yell at protesters who dared to interrupt him, toss curse words into his comments, revengefully attack anyone who questioned him and smile as the crowd chanted "Lock her up!" or "Drain the swamp!" or "Build that wall!" Sometimes he would bring along his luxurious personal plane or his celebrity children. Other times he would pull a lucky kid from the audience onto the stage.

Trump fed off the energy of these crowds and some of his happiest moments on the campaign trail seemed to be nights when he had a full house of captive listeners. But he hasn't held a rally since the night before Election Day and has instead been holed up in Trump Tower and some of his private clubs, keeping in touch with his fans via Twitter and video message.

It remains to be seen if this rally will be like all of the others - or if Trump will strike a dramatically different tone and attitude now that he is the president-elect. On the campaign trail, Trump was often on his best behavior when he was down in the polls and seemed to have no pathway to victory. Some of his most shocking rally comments came when he was confidently ahead or within striking distance of his opponents. He will take the stage at the U.S. Bank Arena as the victor.

And Trump selected Ohio for his first post-election rally - a state that he lost during the Republican primary to Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who refused to endorse Trump or attend the party's convention in Cleveland in July. Trump upstaged the first night of the convention by calling into Fox News to brag that he had eventually beat Kasich "very badly" and "very, very soundly."

And protesters were expected to show up Today, as they often do to Trump's rallies. Anti-Trump activists have regularly demonstrated outside Trump Tower in New York and other Trump-branded properties around the country. Trump has long been critical of those who challenge him, and two days after the election, the president-elect tweeted: "Just had a very open and successful presidential election. Now professional protesters, incited by the media, are protesting. Very unfair!"

The next morning, Trump took a completely different tone and tweeted: "Love the fact that the small groups of protesters last night have passion for our great country. We will all come together and be proud!"

Fleischer - who watched Bush politely react to endless protest - encourages Trump to stay above it all now and ignore his protesters, not allowing them to become the story.

"We had protesters everywhere, they never stopped," Fleischer said. "They were on the parade route . . . and they never left."

Trump's staff did not respond to questions today about how this series of rallies would be paid for, although information about the events was posted on Trump's campaign website instead of his government-financed transition site. The campaign had $16 million on hand as of October 19, according to its latest available fundraising report. Since the election, the campaign has continued to ask for donations - along with selling $99 brass and gold ornaments in the shape of a red "Make America Great Again" cap.

- Washington Post

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