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6 Jan 2024
John Hasson

NextImg:MAGA Makeover: Utah Senate Candidate Rebrands Himself as “America-First’ to Woo Trump Support

Last April, Trent Staggs was a local Utah mayor with little social media presence or name recognition.  

His recent mayoral campaign had promoted him as a leader“who listens,” and thanked Utah Senator Mitt Romney for endorsing his campaign.  

In May, however, Mayor Staggs announced he was challenging Mitt Romney for his Utah Senate seat.

“Utah needs another proven fighter and conservative in the Senate. We need someone unafraid to stand against the Washington establishment,” Staggs announced in a campaign video released on Twitter.

"The only thing I've seen [Romney] fight for are the establishment, wokeness, open borders, impeaching President Trump and putting us even deeper into debt," Staggs continues. 

Staggs’ anti-establishment rhetoric, his criticism of Sen. Romney, and his claim to be a “proven fighter” seemingly materialized overnight. So too did his brand-new campaign website, which dropped his previous motto “leadership that listens” for a new claim: “Mayor Staggs always stands up to the establishment!”

Staggs’ media presence underwent a similar makeover. In the month before Staggs announced his Senate bid, he boasted only 427 followers on X, formerly known as Twitter, and posted at a rate of only once every few days. His announcement video, however, received over 1,500 reposts, and has been viewed over a million times. Today, Staggs’ account has over 15,000 followers, and interacts with conservative influencers such as ALX and MAGA superstars like Kari Lake.

Lake and her allies have played a particularly key role in Staggs’ effort to rebrand himself as a “proven fighter.” Caroline Wren, a senior adviser to Lake, has promoted Staggs on X with “endorsement alerts” and helped to coordinate a Staggs fundraiser with Lake as a special guest.

Staggs’ new campaign brand hints at a clear strategy of aligning himself with Trump’s Presidential reelection campaign. The move is especially puzzling, however, because less than a year before running for Senate, Staggs called on Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to run for President. Staggs penned a letter, along with 85 elected Utah officials, encouraging DeSantis to run for President, stating:  

“Our nation stands at a crossroads. We recognize the need for a strong leader to guide and direct our nation, someone with a proven track record, strong conservative foundation, and who understands the operations of state government. We need a leader who will strengthen and unify the nation. Gov. Ron DeSantis serves his country and state well.”

One can only wonder if DeSantis’ campaign struggles played a role in Staggs’ decision to embrace former President Trump and Kari Lake for his Senate primary campaign.