LATROBE, United States: He may not be on the ballot in the upcoming US midterm elections, but Donald Trump was still the main draw for Pennsylvania's Republicans ahead of what they hope will be a "red wave" sweeping control of Congress.
Trump fans gathered at a rally in the city of Latrobe in the battleground state to hear the former president rally Republican votes ahead of Tuesday's elections, and tease his potential White House run in 2024.
"I promise you in the very next very, very, very short period of time, you're going to be so happy," Trump told his supporters. Leslie Boswell, in a red "Trump 2020" T-shirt, said she came to "have fun and vote for Trump" -- or, at least, for Republicans on Tuesday.
The midterms, held two years after the presidential election, are usually seen as a referendum on the current occupant of the White House, and determine control of the House of Representatives and the Senate -- as well as many state governors and other officials.
For Trump's supporters, a Republican victory on Tuesday will help pave the path for their hero to make his triumphant return to power.
"He's the only one that is worth the presidency," Boswell, 39, said.
"It's a stepping stone" for 2024, agreed 49-year-old Dixy Chappell.
"He brings energy to the campaign."
"I really hope he reruns," said a woman who only gave her name as Janine and who wore a T-shirt in the red, white and blue of the American flag.
She drove four hours to hear Trump speak. "He is what America stands for, what America was before," she said, without defining what she meant by "before."
"In three days we'll have a red wave, baby," the 52-year-old said.
The former president is pushing hard in the final days of the campaign, visiting Iowa and Florida as well as Pennsylvania. On Saturday, Trump was supporting Republican Senate candidate Mehmet Oz, a slick and famous TV doctor who is running against Democrat John Fetterman, currently the state's lieutenant governor.
With the Senate evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats -- Vice President Kamala Harris, a Democrat, holds the tie-breaking vote -- the winner in Pennsylvania could determine control of the upper house of Congress and thus the fate of President Joe Biden's agenda.
Before Trump took to the stage among hundreds of supporters and countless flags, local candidates took turns rallying their followers with one watchword: inflation, inflation, inflation.
Prices are "outrageous" said Norm Volpe, who came with his biker group for Trump. The United States is currently grappling with inflation levels not seen since the 1980s, with Americans struggling to pay for everything from food to gas. And, Volpe said, the Democrats should be punished for that. "Seems like everything went up after they took over," he said.
For this 57-year-old metal worker, Trump is a man of his word.
"I believe he did everything he campaigned on, at least he's doing it and tried to do it," Volpe said. -- AFP