An FBI search of Mar-A-Lago didn’t stop Donald J. Trump’s promised “tele-rally” on behalf of Leora Levy on Monday. Peter Lumaj didn’t quit the race, defying rumors. And Themis Klarides made a final pitch about electability.
Needless to say, the last day of campaigning before Connecticut Republicans go to the polls Tuesday to choose a U.S. Senate nominee to challenge Sen. Richard Blumenthal was unconventional.
Trump kept his date with Levy, coming on the line at 8:06 p.m. to praise Levy, attack Blumenthal and mock the first and last names of Klarides, a Greek American who was the Connecticut House minority leader for six years.
“Themis … Klarides,” Trump said, pausing between her first and last names, which he mispronounced. “I don’t know, that’s an interesting name, isn’t it?”
In Greek mythology, Themis is the name of a goddess who personifies justice, wisdom and good counsel and is “the interpreter of the gods’ will.” Klarides met Trump at a Bridgeport rally in 2016 but did not vote for his reelection in 2020.
Little more than an hour earlier, Trump issued a statement revealing “my beautiful home, Mar-A-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, is currently under siege, raided, and occupied by a large group of FBI agents.”
Trump reportedly was not at the Florida estate.
But he was on message on the “tele-rally,” never straying from the Connecticut race. He said nothing about the FBI raid as he spoke for about six minutes to a telephone audience that Levy’s campaign says numbered 32,619.
Trump and Levy did not interact during the event, but the former president and candidate spoke privately before speaking to the telephone audience. The Levy campaign said Trump’s comments were live.
He called Klarides a “total RINO,” his favorite epithet for “Republicans In Name Only,” and mocked her for the support she’s received from two of the nation’s most popular governors, Republicans Charlie Baker of Massachusetts and Larry Hogan of Maryland, and Trump’s former ally, Chris Christie.
He called them “establishment sellouts and RINO, really, losers.”
He took credit for dissuading Baker to seek a third term.
“You know, I got him out.,” Trump said. “I backed somebody else in the Republican primary, and Charlie Baker quit, serious RINO. Larry Hogan, the same.”
Baker announced in December he would not run again. Hogan was barred from seeking a third term by term limits.
Like Baker and Hogan, Klarides is trying to win in a blue state. The last Republican elected to the Senate from Connecticut was Lowell P. Weicker Jr. in 1982. He was a social moderate who eventually left the party.
As for Blumenthal, Trump said, “He’s just a terrible senator. He’s mocked all over Washington. And I think there’s gonna be a tremendous race, but first we have to win a primary.”
Trump signed off predicting a Levy win and asserting progress not detected in public polling.
“Her numbers are through the roof. So, Leora, congratulations on what’s happened over the last two weeks. It’s incredible. You’re like a rocket ship,” Trump said. “So go out and win this tomorrow.”
“Thank you so much, Mr. President,” Levy said. “I will fight and I will win the primary and I will defeat Dick Blumenthal, and I appreciate your support tremendously. Thank you.”
She returned the compliments.
“You are a true patriot,” Levy said. “You love our country, and you have done so much for our country. We were so much better off two years ago.”
If he was still on the line, Trump said nothing.
The former president endorsed Levy in a surprise phone call Thursday night. He neglected Lumaj, the other Trump loyalist in the race.
In a telephone interview Monday night, Lumaj reaffirmed he remained a candidate, undeterred by the Trump endorsement of Levy, whom Lumaj has called a fraud for her conversion from Jeb Bush to Trump in 2016 and her switch from a defender of reproductive rights in 2012 to a critic.
“Leora’s people are spreading these rumors that I’m dropping out. I’m not. I’m in,” Lumaj said. “I think that conservatism, the true conservative, has been received very well. I have no reasons to step down.”
Klarides, the winner of the Republican state convention in May, recorded a video for social media from an Ocean State Job Lot store in Seymour that once was the site of her family’s grocery store.
She is a fiscal and law-and-order conservative but a social moderate who supports abortion rights and same-sex marriage. She made the video surrounded by the chief elected officials of Naugatuck Valley towns, belying Trump’s assertion she was bereft of support.
As she has throughout the campaign, Klarides said she was the most electable of the three candidates, a plea for the political pragmatism evident at the convention, where she won support from conservatives.
“We are all not going to agree on everything, but we’re going to agree on way more than we disagree on,” Klarides said. “I am the proven winner, and I am the proven fighter.”