Former President Donald Trump, center, attends the wake for NYPD...

Former President Donald Trump, center, attends the wake for NYPD Officer Jonathan Diller in Massapequa in March, as Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman holds an umbrella for him. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

During his Bronx pep rally last week, Donald Trump called Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman up to the stage. Trump looked around, couldn't spot him, and just for laughs, ad-libbed for his audience, “That’s a long way to come up. To hell with Bruce, right?...”

But the defendant/candidate switched back to non-joke mode and barked, “Come on up, Bruce.”

As he waited, Trump told his audience: “This guy is from central casting. If I’m doing a movie of a politician, this is the guy I have playing (one).” He introduced Blakeman as “somebody that’s a real star in politics and done an incredible job — and so popular in Nassau County.”

Blakeman loped onto the stage, grinning, did a high handshake with Trump, and tossed out some MAGA red meat. His veteran parents, Blakeman said, would be shocked and appalled at this “foreign invasion from our southern border.”

“Nassau County is not a sanctuary county,” Blakeman shouted, “and when Donald Trump gets reelected this will not be a sanctuary country! God Bless America!”

In showbiz terms, Blakeman may be channeling Ed McMahon. Long ago the late McMahon echoed, laughed at, or was on the receiving end of quips from Johnny Carson. In the same vein, Paul Shaffer was the supportive band leader for David Letterman. It's a subordinate's role. 

Last week’s rally seemed to keep the courtroom scowls and pouting off Trump’s face. Trump could bask anew in the comfort of adoring fans. It didn’t go so well at the Libertarian Party conclave on Saturday where Trump was booed, cursed at and jeered, thus bookending his jarring week.

For Blakeman, the Bronx visit was the second time since March that the county exec drew notice as a Trump sidekick. After a somber, well-attended wake for slain NYPD Officer Jonathan Diller in Massapequa, Trump addressed the news media. It was raining; he handed Blakeman his umbrella, which the county executive dutifully held above Trump, thus putting in the frame of a widely viewed news photo both the leader and acolyte. 

Strategically, the Bronx is as good a place as any for New York Republicans to try to win over city voters. In 2020 President Joe Biden beat incumbent Trump with 83% of the vote in that borough.

But painting the city red isn’t the goal; by making inroads in hostile terrain, the GOP can, in theory, whittle down the Democratic advantage in urban centers while maximizing the vote in conservative counties to have a chance to win the state.

Curiously, Trump spoke at the rally alongside rappers Sheff G and Sleepy Hallow who are facing counts of conspiracy to commit murder and weapons possession.

Perhaps this signals that Trump wouldn’t devote all his pardons to white-collar criminals if he recoups the White House. Or maybe it's his way of pandering for minority votes. Or maybe Trump is again claiming persecution, having already compared himself — with a straight face — to Nelson Mandela.

For his part, Blakeman’s ambitions, if any, beyond his home county at age 68 are unknown. He’s signaled in the GOP he’d seek reelection as county executive next year. He has not ruled out a run for governor in 2026. If elected again, would Trump — drawn by Blakeman’s “political” looks and fealty — make him an ambassador, or even a Cabinet appointee?

It’s too soon to tell. For now, Blakeman is collecting loyalty points.

Columnist Dan Janison's opinions are his own.


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