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There’s a Good Reason Trump Will Rally Supporters in Phoenix

After a rough few weeks, president could use a boost from friendly crowd

Then-presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to a crowd of supporters during a campaign rally in June 2016 in Phoenix, Arizona. Trump campaigned seven times in Arizona before Election Day last year. (Ralph Freso/Getty Images file photo)
Then-presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to a crowd of supporters during a campaign rally in June 2016 in Phoenix, Arizona. Trump campaigned seven times in Arizona before Election Day last year. (Ralph Freso/Getty Images file photo)

President Donald Trump on Monday gave a somber address about his strategy in America’s longest-running war in Afghanistan. But that tone will likely change as he holds a campaign-style rally Tuesday night in Phoenix — where Trump has tossed out some of his more visceral rhetoric — and feeds supporters samples of what made them love him in the first place.

It could be a pep rally for Trump after the criticism he got last week from many Republicans for the way he appeared to give a nod to white supremacists after the racial violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. The president has also come under heavy criticism for the disarray in the White House that has led resignations and firings in his team’s top tier, and for having no major legislative accomplishments to show for his seven months in office.

One of Trump’s first major rallies after he launched his campaign was in Phoenix in July 2015, a month after his presidential announcement speech, in which he declared that Mexico was sending rapists, drug dealers and criminals into the United States.

“So the Mexican government does not care about the border nearly as much as they care about bad trade deals that the United States is making with Mexico,” he said then. 

It was also the start of Trump’s longstanding war of words with Arizona Sen. John McCain.

“We have incompetent politicians, not only the president,” Trump said in reference to then-President Barack Obama. “I mean, right here in your own state, you have John McCain.”

This remark came a full week before Trump said McCain was “a war hero because he was captured.”

Since then, Trump has taken to criticizing Arizona’s other Republican Sen. Jeff Flake, tweeting that he was “WEAK on borders and crime,” and showing support for the senator’s Republican primary opponent, former state Sen. Kelli Ward. 

Similarly, Trump’s pivot from acting presidential to throwing red meat to his constituents has precedent from almost a year ago.

In August of last year, Trump visited Mexico City and met with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto.

After their meeting, Trump said in a joint appearance with Peña Nieto that paying for his border wall between the U.S. and Mexico did not come up in their conversation. Trump had insisted that Mexico would pay for it to roaring campaign rally crowds.

But Peña Nieto contradicted Trump later in a tweet, saying they had discussed it, and he told Trump that Mexico wasn’t pay for it.

But despite the reserved tone of that meeting, Trump bolted to Phoenix on his way back to home and appeared with several parents of children killed by immigrants in the U.S. illegally, a tactic he has used frequently at rallies and appearances.

“Countless innocent American lives have been stolen because our politicians have failed in their duty to secure our borders and enforce our laws like they have to be enforced,” he said.

He also said explicitly that the U.S. should be able to limit immigration to those who can assimilate.

“We also have to be honest about the fact that not everyone who seeks to join our country will be able to successfully assimilate,” he said last year. “It is our right as a sovereign nation to choose immigrants that we think are the likeliest to thrive and flourish here.”

He also described the results of his opponent Hillary Clinton’s immigration plan.

“The result will be millions more illegal immigrants; thousands of more violent, horrible crimes; and total chaos and lawlessness. That’s what’s going to happen, as sure as you’re standing there,” he said. 

Just days before Election Day Trump returned to Phoenix, where crowds chanted “Lock her up!” in reference to Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton before Trump took the stage and Trump went into graphic detail about illegal immigrants killing citizens.

“Countless Americans are killed by illegal immigrants because our government won’t do its job.”

That rally came shortly after then-FBI Director James B. Comey, whom Trump would later fire, revealed the FBI was reviewing additional emails related to its investigation of Hillary Clinton. Trump used it to fire up the crowd.

“This is the biggest political scandal since Watergate, and it’s everybody’s deepest hope that justice at last will be beautifully delivered,” he said at the time.

Also speaking at that rally was former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, whom Trump is reportedly considering a pardon for.

Still, pardoning Arpaio — who was convicted of ignoring a federal court’s order — or at least hinting at it — will be a sign Trump is reverting to what got him elected, and he is still loyal to his base, even after the departure of nationalist adviser Steve Bannon.