Former president Donald Trump made an appearance at the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, delighting fans in the red state.
Mr Trump was seen in videos at the event with Kimberly Guilfoyle, partner of his eldest son Don Jr. It wasn’t immediately clear if Mr Trump Jr or other family members were in attendance.
The Derby, at the Churchill Downs track in Louisville, was won by the horse Rich Strike, a longshot entrant with 80-1 odds. The glitzy crowd included the state’s Democratic governor, Andy Beshear, as well as Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps.
Mr Trump’s visit to Kentucky this weekend served more than one purpose as he works to cement his control of the GOP.
His super PAC was hosting a $75,000-per-person fundraiser at the event, according to The New York Times, on the home turf of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, one of his top rivals in the GOP. Mr McConnell was not in attendance at the event.
Kentucky is solid Trump territory with Mr Trump winning the state by almost 30 points over Joe Biden in the 2020 election. Saturday’s Derby was held at the Churchill Downs track in Louisville, where longshot entrant Rich Strike won the most famous of the Triple Crown races.
The former president has long taken credit for Mr McConnell’s 2020 victory over Amy McGrath, a well-funded Democratic opponent who nevertheless lost every county in the state to the Minority Leader in 2020.
Mr Trump also reportedly referred to Mr McConnell as a “dumb son of a b****” at a private gathering for Republican donors last year.
Mr McConnell is expected to retain control of the Senate GOP next year if his party wins control of the chamber in the November midterms. His fortune is quite the opposite of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy who is expected to face a challenge for the Speaker’s gavel should the GOP control the House in January.
Mr McCarthy has made efforts, including at Mar-a-Lago and over the phone, to stay on Mr Trump’s good side even as he faces a steady drip-drip of leaks regarding comments he made about the former president in the days and hours immediately following the January 6 attack.
Mr Trump’s efforts at the Derby this weekend are part of a campaign to maintain a vast war chest that was outpacing cash-on-hand totals of both the Republican National Committee (RNC) and Democratic National Committee (DNC) combined, at the end of 2021.
While he has shown no sign of stopping his fundraising juggernaut, Mr Trump has been slow to spend the money he has raised. He has yet to declare a 2024 bid for the White House, with all signs pointing to a potential announcement after the November midterms.
Most GOP candidates who have so far received his endorsement, have been awarded little in terms of monetary support. The notable exception to this rule is the Georgia primary, where Mr Trump has poured half a million into the effort to unseat Gov Brian Kemp for his refusal to help the former president overturn the 2020 election.
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