Using similar tactics, Austrian nationalists hope for a ‘Trump bump’

Hofer’s campaign manager then told the media that “Mr. Van der Bellen appears slow; in fact, he displays a certain exhaustion.” By June, the right-wing blog “Politically Incorrect” published a letter allegedly submitted to Austrian authorities asserting that Van der Bellen was stricken with dementia and cancer. So severe was his case — the fake letter attested — that Van der Bellen required a legal guardian.

.. The health issue was only one of several false rumors and reports — including allegations of Van der Bellen family ties to the Nazis — that his campaign has struggled to put down.

.. Trump-like slogans, meanwhile, have popped up on the Internet, including a hashtag for “Make Austria Great Again” and an Internet meme showing the country’s borders at the height of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

.. Should Hofer win, he would take over a ceremonial but constitutionally ambiguous job as president that he has contentiously vowed to vest with real power.

 .. He might refuse, for instance, to sign Europe’s free trade deal with Canada and could call a referendum on the Paris Agreement to combat climate change. He has also flirted with a referendum on European Union membership — a possible death blow to the bloc following Britain’s vote to leave it.
.. Hofer tends to portray the hosts of debates as well as his opponents as foolish when he is asked critical questions, and, in Trump-like fashion, he launches into unrelated attacks. When asked during a debate whether he should distance himself from Austria’s nationalistic fraternities long linked to racists, Hofer, for instance, attacked the questioner.

“You are so desperate and depressed today. When I saw you six weeks ago, you were such a happy person,” he retorted.

.. In manner, Hofer is wholly unlike the bombastic Trump, speaking in an aw-shucks style that comes off as downright neighborly. Last month, he told Austrian broadcaster ZIB 2 that Trump’s election campaign had been “horrible.”

“I’m happy that we don’t have anything like this in this style in Austria,” he said.

.. His single biggest issue is immigration. He argues that at current birthrates, Muslim immigrants would soon overwhelm native Austrians.

.. Austria’s Identitarian activists — a far-right movement supporting ethno-European nationalism. While he has distanced himself from the movement, his party leadership has also cultivated it — sharing, for instance, stories sympathetic to the group on social media.
.. “We want to disrupt the firewall of multicultural societies,” he said. “You did it in the U.S. with Trump. Now we want it here.”