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RedState Ringleader Relishes Trump Circus

Erick Erickson is the man who turned Donald Trump away.

The editor-in-chief of stood before the crowd of conservative activists at the RedState Gathering in Atlanta on Saturday and seemed to bask in his rejection of the man who has been leading the polls in the Republican presidential race for weeks.

After Trump's criticism of Megyn Kelly on CNN Friday night — loaded with biological detail — Erickson revoked his invitation for Trump to give the keynote speech during a tailgate party Saturday night at the College Football Hall of Fame in downtown Atlanta.

Earlier in the day, Erickson turned some of the reaction to that decision into fodder for his gig as emcee of the RedState Gathering. He read what he said were angry messages from Trump supporters. They included: "I'm a woman, and I refuse to let Fox News dictate to me who the President will be. Mr. Trump is not politically correct. He's a great American." An expletive followed, and Erickson said they dominated many of the responses.

His crowd was having none of it. They booed each message as Erickson read them aloud, then cheered big time when he finally said, "You know, I gotta tell you guys. I made the right decision."

Trump called Erickson a "loser" and brought up the instances where Erickson was pilloried for things he said. Erickson was asked about that on NPR's Weekend Edition and told host Linda Wertheimer, in part, "The difference between me and Donald Trump is I actually apologized."

And speaking of past comments, Erickson had lots of fun on Twitter through the day, retweeting past compliments Trump had paid him.

It's not clear at all that the backlash from Trump's comments would bring an end to his campaign. Similar controversies have only bolstered his popularity in the past.

But if Trump does soon see his poll numbers drop, Erick Erickson has preemptively claimed victory.

Likewise, Erickson has been given and gladly took credit for killing the Iowa Straw Poll, which has not accurately predicted the winner of the Iowa caucuses or a presidential race since the 2000 campaign. (Michele Bachmann won in 2011. She dropped out of the 2012 race after finishing sixth in the caucuses.)

This year, Erickson scheduled the RedState gathering on the same weekend as the Iowa Straw Poll, which was later cancelled.

The RedState gathering was apparently an attractive invite, with 10 of this year's 17 GOP candidates attending — well, 9 after Trump was uninvited — and the candidates came from across the GOP spectrum: Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Carly Fiorina, Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, Bobby Jindal, Rick Perry, Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz.

But while RedState may bring together an engaged constituency, it is not actually a state. It doesn't send delegates to the Republican National Convention to pick the presidential nominee. Iowa does.

So over the next couple of weeks, the candidates will dutifully make their way through the butter sculptures and livestock competitions at the Iowa State Fair.

Donald Trump was reportedly booked to introduce a performance there by the '80s hair band Def Leppard — then the guitarist appeared to uninvite him.

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Arnie Seipel is the Deputy Washington Editor for NPR. He oversees daily news coverage of politics and the inner workings of the federal government. Prior to this role, he edited politics coverage for seven years, leading NPR's reporting on the 2016, 2018 and 2020 elections. In between campaigns, Seipel edited coverage of Congress and the White House, and he coordinated coverage of major events including State of the Union addresses, Supreme Court confirmations and congressional hearings.
Sarah McCammon
Sarah McCammon is a National Correspondent covering the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast for NPR. Her work focuses on political, social and cultural divides in America, including abortion and reproductive rights, and the intersections of politics and religion. She's also a frequent guest host for NPR news magazines, podcasts and special coverage.
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