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The One Word Trump Didn’t Say at His Last Rally Actually Says a Lot

During a 90-minute speech in Texas on Saturday, former President Donald Trump notably made no mention of COVID-19 vaccines.

SO WHAT

Trump has received rare pushback from his base for promoting vaccines and booster shots. Is this a sign he’s gotten the message?

WHAT HAPPENED

Trump avoided using the word “vaccine” during the campaign-style rally in Conroe, during which he teased a 2024 presidential run and sparked controversy by suggesting he might pardon Jan. 6 defendants if he wins re-election.

While Trump did mention the success of his administration’s Operation Warp Speed, which helped develop and distribute COVID-19 vaccines and treatments, Trump did not encourage his supporters to get jabbed as he had in the past.

  • “The vaccine ‘hesitant,’ the vaccine ‘resistant’ and the anti-vaxx are a rising political force in the country — a force that will start to gain power in the primaries,” Steve Bannon told Politico. “Even President Trump’s most ardent MAGA followers— vaccinated or not— do not want him discussing this.”
  • Another former Trump adviser told Politico that Trump’s “course correction” was “pretty apparent.”
  • “He probably has to balance the position of whether he wants to separate himself against DeSantis but also do no harm. So there was a course correction, where being against mandates is a very safe position and leaving it to personal choice and personal freedom is the best course,” said the adviser, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

THE STAKES

Last month, Trump slammed politicians who won’t own up to receiving COVID-19 boosters as “gutless,” a shot that was widely seen as aimed at Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

  • Trump, who is known for being attuned to the resonances of his base, has been booed by supporters on multiple occasions for endorsing vaccines.
  • Some political observers have theorized that DeSantis’ more ambivalent position on vaccines could be an advantage if he decides to take on Trump in the 2024 GOP primary.
  • However, polls have repeatedly shown Trump dominating his potential GOP rivals, DeSantis included.

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