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Ohio train derailment: Trump shows signs of life: Can he bottle it up for 2024?

Former President Donald Trump on his Wednesday trip to Ohio briefly channeled the populist energy that distinguished his 2016 campaign from Hillary Clinton and more than a dozen Republican rivals.

Trump visited East Palestine to show support for a community affected by the toxic train derailment, as President Joe Biden, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and other administration officials have come under scrutiny over the federal response to the disaster

“Go here,” was Trump’s terse, three-word response to a reporter’s question about what he would say to Biden.

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The Buckeye State blitz wasn’t perfect, with the odd self-promotional reference to Trump’s water.

But otherwise, it was a vintage Trump performance that the 2024 candidate would like to bottle up.

There are legitimate questions about the Trump administration’s record on rail security, which the White House quickly raised Wednesday, as well as whether the former president was there to help eastern Palestine more than his future political prospects.

However, Trump has become obsessed with his complaints about the 2020 presidential election, the disloyalty of Republicans who dare to run against him in next year’s primaries and perhaps even the habits of consumption of meatballs by some of these Republican rivals.

Trump’s campaign has appeared lethargic since announcing his third bid for the White House in as many election cycles as he seeks to become the first president to serve nonconsecutive terms since Grover Cleveland.

Even on Wednesday, there were grim reminders of Trump’s complicated legal situation, which could throw up more obstacles ahead of his path to the Republican nomination.

For a few hours in Ohio, at least, there was a return to form for Trump, the TV performer, filling a perceived void left by the Biden team in front of a crowd that largely supported him.

Trump won Ohio, usually seen as a battleground state, fairly easily in both 2016 and 2020. He carried the areas surrounding eastern Palestine by even larger margins.

Not only did Trump visit East Palestine before Biden or Buttigieg, he did so while his successor was returning from Europe. Some Republicans, most of them pro-Trump, have tried to argue that the Biden administration is more eager to help Ukraine fend off Russia than to help its own constituents.

The Biden administration won’t let that message go unchallenged for long, and its current control of the levers of the federal government gives it the power to deliver tangible results.

Biden is already scrambling to outdo Trump to protect U.S. manufacturing jobs and make inroads among blue-collar voters ahead of what figures to be another competitive presidential election.

“That’s why we’re building an economy where no one is left behind,” Biden declared in his State of the Union address earlier this month. “Jobs are coming back; Pride is coming back because of the choices we’ve made in recent years.”

Trump’s visit to Ohio recalled past PR victories, such as his pre-presidential intervention in moving the Carrier plant from Indiana. There, too, the details became much more complicated later, but the initial coverage was favorable to Trump.

In recent years, Trump’s fixation on personal vendettas has dulled the sharp political instincts that allowed him to defeat 17 more experienced office candidates from both parties en route to the biggest presidential victory in living memory.

Despite the economic devastation and high death toll from the pandemic, Trump reached 43,000 votes in three states to do it again.

But since then, there have been the GOP’s loss of the Senate in a pair of Georgia sweepstakes as Trump cast doubt on the election results, the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, a second impeachment , a midterm election in which Trump-endorsed candidates trounced Republicans. chances of regaining the Senate, and a sequel to the campaign in which the former president has seemed without new material.

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Trump briefly appeared to have a second act on Wednesday.

If this was a fleeting glimpse of his latest, it remains to be seen in the coming months.

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