Spotted at President Trump campaign event in Winston-Salem, N.C., last week. Photo: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

If President Trump defies today's swing-state polls and pulls off another upset, what will we have missed that could have been a clue?

Here's a big one: Trump flotillas ... Trump flags bigger than American flags ... Trump truck rallies ... Trump shirts ... Trump underwear ... lawns that don't have a Trump-Pence sign or two but 50 or even 100 — a forest.

Why it matters: To his diehard supporters, Trump isn't just a candidate. He's a lifestyle choice and a vehicle for self-expression — a way to continually flip the middle finger at big media, big business, big government ... anything big.

  • It's all part of one of the big Trump triumphs — convincing his voters that an attack on him is actually an attack on them.

A hat, popular in rural convenience stores this summer, says it all: "If You Don't Like Trump Then You Probably Won't Like Me."

  • At rallies, you see people wearing Trump flags like a billowing robe. And a lot of this isn't official campaign merch — people print these up themselves.

At a Trumper classic-car rally in Michigan this weekend, one red, white and blue Trump flag — in place of "Keep America Great" — said, "NO MORE B.S.," with the last word spelled out. Nearby, a man wore a flag-bedecked t-shirt proclaiming: "JESUS IS MY SAVIOR / TRUMP IS MY PRESIDENT."

  • Trump regattas are everywhere, from the solid South to the fancy waters of Mystic, Conn. (Bad metaphorical optics when five Trump boats, swamped by the wake from a massive lake rally, sank near Austin over Labor Day.)
A Trump boat parade passes Mar-a-Lago on Labor Day. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

"Axios on HBO" went to Lake of the Ozarks, Mo., to explore this phenomenon for a segment we call, "Trump on the lake."

  • Axios CEO Jim VandeHei: "In your lifetime, do you ever remember a Ronald Reagan flag as big as the American flag in somebody's front yard? Do you ever remember someone spray painting 'Obama' on their boat?"
  • White House editor Margaret Talev: "No, but there's never been a president whose brand was branding. ... They like the fact that he says things that you're not allowed to say — that he says things that they feel that they can't say at work or in mixed company."

Randy Kelly, a retired boat dealer who has lived at Lake of the Ozarks since moving down from Kansas City 43 years ago, told "Axios on HBO":

  • "If you see someone that has on a Trump hat, there's a camaraderie: Hey, we got something in common."

The bottom line: Trump touts a "silent majority," and pundits pundit about "shy Trump voters" who may be missed by pollsters.

  • But one of the stories of this election is that the Trump vote is screaming, not silent.

Go deeper

Updated Sep 21, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Biden has $141 million more on hand than Trump

Combination images of President Trump and his 2020 presidential rival Joe Biden. Photo: Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images/Alex Wong/Getty Images

Joe Biden's campaign, the Democratic National Committee and joint fundraising committees had $466 million in cash on hand, the presidential candidate's team announced late Sunday.

Why it matters: President Trump's campaign had $325 million cash on hand, his campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh announced Friday.

Dave Lawler, author of World
10 hours ago - World

In UN address, Trump says China "unleashed this plague onto the world"

Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump used a virtual address to the UN General Assembly on Tuesday to defend his response to the coronavirus and call on other countries to “hold accountable the nation which unleashed this plague onto the world: China.”

Setting the scene: Trump ticked through four years of major decisions and accomplishments in what could be his last address to the UN. But first, he launched into a fierce attack on China as Beijing’s representative looked on in the assembly hall.

Meadows: Trump will not meet with Lagoa in Florida

Lagoa and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

White House chief of staff Mark Meadows tells Axios that President Trump will not meet with shortlisted Supreme Court candidate Barbara Lagoa during a campaign visit to Florida on Friday, and that any talks with court candidates will take place in Washington.

The backstory: Axios reported on Tuesday that Trump would meet with Lagoa during his Friday campaign trip, citing two sources familiar with his plans. When we initially approached the White House with this reporting, officials declined to comment.

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