Won too much? Even Trump fans are worried after Biden’s weak debate.

The day after President Biden collapsed during Thursday’s primetime debate, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin stood next to former President Donald J. Trump at a Chesapeake farm as he waxed lyrical.

“This is the best Trump rally ever!”

In the past, Youngkin, when it suited him, kept his distance from Trump and his unpredictable behavior.

Not now. Not with all that winning coming up.

“Hello, Virginia,” Mr. Trump cooed as he took the stage before thousands of his supporters in what Republicans increasingly see as a winnable state. “Did anybody see this thing called the debate?” He bellowed: “That was a big one An.”

On the surface, the Chesapeake rally was a quick victory lap after the debate and before the 2024 race kicks into high gear.

“Democrats are in big trouble, so I’m feeling pretty good today,” said Jason Alter, 35, a dentist from Miami.

But beneath the cheering was a slight panic. It was the kind of panic you sometimes feel when everything in life seems to be going… a little too well.

Throughout Trump’s comeback campaign, his supporters have told anyone who would listen that Biden was nothing more than a tool of a shadowy establishment that would persuade him to introduce a more formidable candidate at the right time. Now, as they see it, that exact plot is playing out before the eyes of the nation.

“We all suspected it,” said Phil Capron, 40, a Virginia Beach resident and real estate investor. “And now that’s the official story that every major outlet has to deal with.”

Suspicion rose Friday. “They did this to get him out,” said Tara Silvasy, 55, a contractor for FEMA.

But who are ‘they’? ‘The party,’ she said simply.

Trump, never one to overlook a cobwebbed conspiracy theory, seemed as afraid as his supporters of what might, perhaps, be happening now.

“A lot of people are saying that Joe Biden is leaving the race after his performance last night,” he said from the podium, followed by scattered, seemingly confused applause. “The fact is, I don’t really believe that,” he continued, “because he’s doing better in the polls than any of the Democrats they’re talking about. Have you seen that, Glenn?”

Mr. Trump spent the next few minutes explaining to his followers why the alternatives to Mr. Biden is actually weaker. He said Gov. Gavin Newsom “can’t run California,” and the crowd booed. He singled out Vice President Kamala Harris and the crowd booed even louder. “It might have been Joe Biden’s best decision to make her vice president, because no one wants that. I would be very happy with that.”

Then he said, “Did they poll Michelle Obama? She’s polling really badly. She’s polling terribly.” The audience remained strangely silent. No one seemed to believe him — least of all Mr. Trump, even though the words came from his own mouth. “It’s hard to believe,” he paused. “But the skewed Joe Biden polls are better than those people.”

This was all somewhat undermined by the fact that Trump had told them during another part of his speech that pollsters could never be trusted.

“Michelle Obama would be an interesting choice,” mused Mr. Capron, wearing an “Alex Jones was right” T-shirt. “I actually think she would get a lot of support. A lot of people really loved the Obama years.”

Ms. Silvasy said, “Unfortunately, I think it will be Gavin Newsom.”

Mr. Alter, the Miami dentist, feared the same thing. “Yes, that would make me very nervous. I hope Joe is too stubborn and he just stays on the ticket and thinks he can win.”

What earned Mr. Trump the loudest applause on Friday had nothing to do with the debate or Mr. Biden’s derailment; it was his reference to the Supreme Court’s ruling that day, which ruled that prosecutors went too far in the way they charged some members of the pro-Trump mob who attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. “Those people have been treated so badly,” Mr. Trump said. “They must be released immediately, the J6 hostages.”

The next morning, Mr. Trump tried to do a little damage control — for his opponent. He posted on Truth Social on Saturday about Mr. Biden, saying, “His speech on Friday was better, and he seems to be coming out of his trance.”

But in Chesapeake he finally aligned with his loyalists on the coming battle. “I don’t know what’s going to happen,” he finally admitted. “I have absolutely no idea.”

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