Will the Trump move­ment live on?

His fol­low­ers’ en­ergy level af­ter elec­tion will help de­ter­mine fu­ture

Baltimore Sun - - NATION & WORLD - By Lisa Mas­caro

GOLDEN, Colo. — Don­ald Trump has whipped up a po­lit­i­cal move­ment like none other in mod­ern pol­i­tics, but there’s a sur­pris­ing am­biva­lence from his army of sup­port­ers — and even the can­di­date him­self — over what to do next.

Be­yond the bom­bast of pick­ing up arms to storm the White House should Hil­lary Clin­ton be­come pres­i­dent, ar­dent Trump vot­ers are be­gin­ning to think se­ri­ously about their post-elec­tion role in pol­i­tics.

Will they or­ga­nize as a new po­lit­i­cal force, spark a revo­lu­tion inside the GOPor, as some sup­port­ers at Trump ral­lies re­cently hinted, re­treat into the back­ground af­ter an ex­haust­ing and di­vi­sive cam­paign?

Kathy Smith and her neigh­bor were wait­ing ea­gerly last month for Trump to speak at a rally in Golden, wear­ing match­ing “De­plorable Amer­i­can” T- Sup­port­ers cheer ahead of a Don­ald Trump cam­paign stop Wed­nes­day in Or­lando, Fla.. shirts.

But Smith ac­knowl­edged that po­lit­i­cal fa­tigue has set in — along with the frus­tra­tion of polls show­ing Trump was un­likely to win her state.

“I want my life to be back,” the hair­styl­ist said.

Smith has been ac­tive lo­cally in pol­i­tics, but said she is ready to hun­ker down if Trump loses to “take care of my birds, my dogs, my fam­ily. I fig­ure, I give him my best shot.”

On the other hand, Ed­die Creech, a to­bacco, corn and bean farmer who lives near Kin­ston, N.C., said he’s ready to leave his “lit­tle slice of heaven” at a mo­ment’s no­tice and go protest in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., if Clin­ton is elected and Trump’s sup­port­ers call for help. “We will kick her out,” he said.

Win or lose, Trump is in a prime po­si­tion to ei­ther lead a re­mak­ing of the party he has up­ended or launch a new one.

But if Trump does not win the White House, it’s not clear whether the Repub­li­can nom­i­nee will stay as ac­tively en­gaged in pol­i­tics as he has been in the many months of the cam­paign.

He has of­fered mixed mes­sages as he jets across the coun­try mak­ing clos­ing ar­gu­ments be­fore Elec­tion Day.

“I will never let you be the for­got­ten peo­ple again,” he told a packed crowd at the St. Au­gus­tine am­phithe­ater in bat­tle­ground Florida. “I will never let you down. I prom­ise.

But at the same rally, Trump’s com­ments raised ques­tions about his longterm com­mit­ment, say­ing if his sup­port­ers don’t get to the polls to elect him, “we will have wasted a hell of a lot of time, en­ergy and — in my case — a lot of money.”

What hap­pens next to Trump’s move­ment is one of the big unan­swered ques­tions of the 2016 elec­tion and one that will shape the GOP’s fu­ture.

Justin Smith, 31, a hog farmer who at­tended a Trump rally in Kin­ston, N.C., with his daugh­ter, Ella Lynn, pre­dicted that the busi­ness­man’s fol­low­ers will keep alive the ideas and phi­los­o­phy that drove the cam­paign, but likely will take a less ac­tive role in pol­i­tics.

“It’s go­ing to be a move­ment,’’ he said, “but we’re go­ing to give up on the govern­ment.”

While Trump can in­spire vot­ers like few oth­ers, trans­form­ing rally-go­ers into a for­mi­da­ble po­lit­i­cal force takes a kind of nuts-and­bolts savvy that has been miss­ing from Trump’s in­su­lar cam­paign op­er­a­tion.

Trump’s abil­ity to amass a mam­moth-sized list of back­ers — and the credit card num­bers of small-dol­lar donors — will be the envy of any tra­di­tional cam­paign ap­pa­ra­tus in lay­ing the ground­work for fu­ture or­ga­niz­ing.

But Trump has said lit­tle in public about his next moves. One re­cent re­port men­tioned his de­sire for much-needed time off.

Also, Trump’s team may pre­fer to mon­e­tize the move­ment as a new busi­ness ven­ture rather than a purely po­lit­i­cal one.

The “Trump TV” en­ter­prise that once seemed a log­i­cal next step af­ter he brought in Fox’s Roger Ailes and Bre­it­bart’s Stephen Ban­non has failed to im­press with its ini­tial launch of a nightly Face­book news show, an un­pol­ished pro­gram.

For a man who has a ten­dency to flit from one trend­ing topic to the next, pol­i­tics may not pro­vide a last­ing re­la­tion­ship. He may choose to move on to other op­por­tu­ni­ties.

MATT ROURKE/AP

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