Donald Trump suggested his supporters don't need to vote and compared himself to Nelson Mandela Monday during a strange campaign speech in New Hampshire.
As the former president repeated well-known, unsubstantiated allegations of fraud and theft from previous elections, he told those in Derry that they should watch other voters rather than vote themselves.
“So we have to be careful, you have to get out there and watch those voters,” Trump said. “You don't need to vote, don't worry about the vote. The vote, we got a lot of votes, you have to watch.”
The comments drew criticism from a member of the Ron DeSantis campaign.
“This is the type of talk that loses elections,” wrote spokesman Brian Griffin in X.
A Trump campaign spokesman said later Knowledgeable The remarks were not a literal call not to vote, but rather a warning about election security.
“He was outspoken about election integrity and making sure only legitimate votes were counted and not letting what happened in 2020 happen again,” the campaign official said.
Mr. Trump's appearance in New Hampshire, where he formally filed papers to run in the state's 2024 key presidential primary, had other odd moments.
Mr Trump compared his completely discredited campaign against the 2020 election to the work of South African anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela.
“If you want to challenge the outcome of an election, they're going after you,” Trump said. “But we are not afraid – we are not afraid. I'll tell you something, I don't mind being Nelson Mandela, because I'm doing it for a reason.”
Before his speech, Mr Trump – who has had a long history of legal battles even before his time in national service, when he was impeached twice, and after his presidency, where he has been indicted numerous times by state and federal officials – he said. the word indictment was virtually never used until the Biden administration.
“We didn't do anything wrong,” Mr. Trump he said. “This is all Biden. Categories, references. This is all about Biden. You can't do anything right. The only thing they know how to do is cheat the elections, electoral fraud. This is all Biden stuff, all these indictments in DC. I was never charged. You practically never heard the word, it wasn't a registered word.”
Mr Trump has previously grilled members of his own party over the potential impact of his frequent attacks on the integrity of US elections.
During his own 2020 presidential campaign and a close U.S. Senate race in Georgia that ended in an upset for Republicans, some blamed Mr. Trump's relentless electioneering for GOP losses.
“Telling everyone the race was stolen when it didn't cost the Republicans two Senate seats,” conservative Georgia political commentator Eric Erickson said at the time. “Going all-in on the cult of personality around President Trump hurt them as a result. They had to play this: ‘There's no way Donald Trump is going to lose. They had to steal it from him.”
At the time of the election, Mr. Trump was leading an all-out public campaign against the 2020 results, and Trump campaign allies such as lawyer Lynn Wood suggested people should not vote in the Georgia Senate race.
“Don't be fooled twice. This is Georgia, we're not stupid. We're not going to vote on January 5 in another Chinese-made machine,” he said in a campaign speech. “You will not fool the Georgians again.”