On a night where he hinted that he might name his vice presidential nominee, Donald Trump left his crowd — and at least a pair of VP hopefuls — wanting more than they got.

What You Need To Know

  • Former President Donald Trump held a rally at his Doral, Fla., golf club on Tuesday night, his first public appearance in several days

  • Trump reveled in the Democratic panic following his debate against President Joe Biden last month

  • He also attacked Vice President Kamala Harris, a possible successor should Biden step aside form the ticket, giving her the nickname "Laffin' Kamala"

  • Trump repeatedly teased his running mate pick with two possible contenders in attendance: Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Byron Donalds

In his first public appearance in nine days, more than a week since his debate against President Joe Biden, Trump rallied supporters in his adopted home state of Florida on Tuesday evening.

As expected, Trump crowed about his debate performance against Biden — one that Biden himself described as a "bad night" — and repeatedly joked about the 81-year-old president’s enfeeblement. At one point, Trump, 79, said that Biden has spent nearly 50% of his presidency on vacation — though, according to a Washington Post analysis from last year, both presidents spent roughly the same amount of time away from the White House.

And, since this night’s rally was held on the 10th hole of Trump National Doral Golf Course, began with a handful of golf riffs — including challenging Biden to a round of golf, a callback to a golf-centric spat the two got into on the debate stage. Biden campaign spokesperson James Singer panned the golf challenge, saying in a statement: "Donald Trump is a liar, a convict, and a fraud only out for himself – par for the course.”

"We’d challenge Donald Trump to create jobs, but he lost 3 million," Singer said. "We’d challenge Donald Trump to stand up to Putin, but he bent the knee to him. We’d challenge Donald Trump to follow the law, but he breaks it ... Joe Biden doesn’t have time for Donald Trump’s weird antics — he’s busy leading America and defending the free world."

Trump reveled in the Democratic panic in the days since the debate.

“Our victory was so absolute that Joe’s own party now wants him to throw in the towel and surrender the presidency after a single 90-minute performance," Trump said. "They want ‘Crooked Joe’ out of the race. It’s a shame the way they’re treating him. But don’t feel sorry for him. He’s a very bad guy.”

Though Tuesday’s rally was much like any other Trump rally — including repeated jokes at Biden’s expense, continuous attacks on immigrants, racist dogwhistles about Black and Hispanic jobs, knocks on NATO, which is holding a summit in Washington this week, and assertions that Biden will allow a third world war to happen on his watch — two significant things set it apart.

First, he took time to insult Vice President Kamala Harris, introducing (and spelling out) a new nickname, a common move for people he’s going to relentlessly attack: "Laffin’ Kamala," who he said is an incompetent, responsible for both the immigration "invasion" at the border and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Harris, as Biden’s vice president, is the person most expected to be his successor in the race for the White House should Biden step aside.

Second, Trump hinted at the possibility of naming his vice presidential nominee, even suggesting as such on his personal social media platform, Truth Social. Two hopefuls were in attendance on Tuesday: Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Byron Donalds, both representing Florida. And though he name-dropped both repeatedly (and, during a riff on the price of food, asked Donalds to stand up, saying "Byron loves bacon!") Trump left the stage without naming a running mate.

At one point, Trump pointed out the media attention surrounding Tuesday's event and quipped, "I think they probably think I’m going to be announcing that Marco is going to be vice president."

He made another reference to Rubio when he talked about his proposal to eliminate taxes on tips, saying of the Florida lawmaker: "Marco you’re going to vote for it, I hope. Well, you may or may not be there to vote for it. But you’ll be involved."

Hours before the call, first lady Jill Biden and the Biden-Harris campaign took to head off Trump’s attacks, attacking the former president both on his alleged ties to the Project 2025 presidential transition agenda and on deeply conservative actions on abortion.

"Donald Trump is trying to tell women he's a moderate on reproductive rights. Does he think we forgot that his Supreme Court justices killed Roe v. Wade and that he brags about it? Does he think we don't know that he wants to roll back access to contraception and he could jeopardize IVF treatments? Does he think he can pivot away from a career of diminishing and denigrating women?" the first lady told reporters on Tuesday. "Well, women haven't forgotten, and we can't be fooled. Donald Trump has spent years telling us exactly who he is, and we believe him."

The Project 2025 agenda, which has been slowly and steadily growing in the public consciousness in recent weeks, is a presidential transition roadmap for conservative governance under a second Trump presidency — and it’s spearheaded by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative organization which has hugely influenced every Republican presidency since Reagan. Among its many objectives, Project 2025 seeks to replace tens of thousands of federal civil service employees as political appointees, so as to pack the government with party loyalists; it also seeks to center conservative Christian values. 

Within the first six pages of its 900 page "2025 Mandate for Leadership" — the "first pillar" of the project — it pledges to remove terms like "sexual orientation," "gender identity," "diversity," "equity," "inclusion," "abortion" and "every other term used to deprive Americans of their First Amendment rights" from federal rules, grants, regulations and legislation; it also seeks to ban pornography, bend school boards to serve their purpose or lose federal funding, attacks technology firms, and pledges that the decision that overturned Roe v. Wade "is just the beginning" in the fight against abortion.

(Trump has denied his endorsement of Project 2025 and recently attempted to distance himself from it, though many of the authors of the project’s first volume are alumni of his administration.)

"MAGA politicians, with the blessing of Donald J. Trump, have inserte themselves into women’s deeply personal health care decisions," said Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas. "They are threatening doctors with prison time and in the process, they are endangering women's health and lives."

Ana Navarro, a conservative strategist, commentator and self-proclaimed NeverTrumper, joined the call as well — and when asked about Marco Rubio’s status as a hopeful for Trump’s vice president, she scoffed.

"He was a very different Marco Rubio in 2016 when he was criticizing Donald Trump and attacking Donald Trump than he is today. Today, he could probably win an Olympic medal for sucking up and for turning into a completely different person," Navarro said. "I've witnessed his metamorphosis. I've witnessed his shape-shifting as a politician, as a Republican. I don't know that Donald Trump is going to appoint Marco as his VP because my belief is that for Donald Trump, loyalty is very important."

Trump is expected to name a running mate as early as this week ahead of the Republican National Convention beginning July 15.