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Analysis: Back On The Trail, Trump Takes Gloves Off

President hits Sanford in home state: ‘I can’t stand that guy’

President Donald Trump arrives for a rally at the Nashville Municipal Auditorium on May 29. He was in South Carolina on Monday evening. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
President Donald Trump arrives for a rally at the Nashville Municipal Auditorium on May 29. He was in South Carolina on Monday evening. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Donald Trump doesn’t do “stupid” Teleprompters. Why? Because he says his aides load “boring” speeches that he often ignores, feeling his instincts are the sharpest of any American politician in perhaps a half century.

His midterm campaign message is straightforward. There are no complicated policy explanations. Nor is there the kind of flowery language his predecessors have used to try to sell voters on their party’s agenda. But there is the same bare-knuckled Trump behind a podium lambasting foes and making big promises. And, after 17 months in office, he sprinkles in ample mentions of his biggest perceived achievements.

To hear Trump’s campaign message, one must first sift through a tangle rhetorical web about late-night talk show hosts, political rivals, the “fake news” media and other world leaders. It worked in 2016, and the president appears confident it will translate to congressional races two years later.

He laid into GOP Rep. Mark Sanford, who lost his coastal district primary after Trump endorsed his opponent with just hours to go in a very tight race. On Monday night, Trump defended his decision to overrule his aides and urge voters to oust Sanford, saying: “I don’t care. I can’t stand that guy. I don’t care.”

And as Air Force One circled North Charleston while a thunderstorm passed, he questioned the sobriety of a sitting U.S. senator while also suggesting he is guilty of mishandling classified information.

Trying to deliver a knockout blow Monday night in South Carolina’s GOP gubernatorial primary runoff on behalf of incumbent Henry McMaster, the president spent as much time ranting about random topics as his party’s policy agenda or the candidate to which he was in town to help one day before Republican voters will pick a gubernatorial nominee.

[Trump Escalates Rhetoric, Attacking Rep. Waters and Dems]

Trump spent more time at the top of his storm-delayed rally gushing about McMaster, whom he said played a big role in his 2016 presidential bid. He called McMaster a “great, great man” and praised his work ethic. He dubbed the governor as tough on crime and a proponent of the Second Amendment, adding — in terms Trump might use to describe Trump — McMaster is “a fighter — he’s tough, he’s strong.”

But, in signature fashion, the president later spent a comparable amount of time talking about late-night talk show host Jimmy Fallon, who once apologized for “humanizing” candidate Trump when checking to see if his hair is real.

The president derisively claimed Fallon would wait for his car before appearances on his NBC show, even describing the former SNL star as being eager to “open my door.” South Carolina native Stephen Colbert of CBS also came up, with the president calling him “a lowlife.”

“Are these people funny?” Trump asked, essentially overruling his staff and whatever they had loaded into the Teleprompter that Trump at one point openly mocked as “stupid” and “so boring.”

Trump, who breezed to the 2016 GOP nomination by speaking to conservative audiences in the same kinds of places like the North Charleston high school in which he appeared Monday by delivering the same kind of nearly stream-of-consciousness remarks. And 2016 remains a part of a stump speech that resides in his mind, not on the ’Prompter.

He claimed the “fake” media quickly said after he defeated Hillary Clinton that “any other Republicans would have won,” griping that “they refuse to say I was a good candidate.” He then went onto mention, as he often does, that he won Michigan and other states that experts said he would lose big.

Other politicians might have spent 10 or 15 minutes on the GOP tax overhaul law Trump signed late last year. Not Trump. He chose to accompany his talk show host insults with other rants about Clinton and a mention of the list of other Republicans to secure the nomination.

His ad-libbing did produce one notable contradiction: He told the audience he has never had higher poll numbers before calling all polling “fake news” and “suppression” of votes that “ought to be illegal.”

All of that threatens to drown out his message of a healthy economy and job market, lower taxes, a federal bench getting a conservative overhaul, as well as his vows to secure the southern border and build his proposed wall there.

Trump specializes in sizzle, and that was the entree he served in the Palmetto State. The substance were the side dishes, with tariffs and the tax law’s nixing the 2010 health laws individual mandate merely the side dishes.

[Trump Doubles Down on No Due Process for Migrants]

A White House official late last week said those things will be a part of his midterm message, but did not dispute that immigration will be, too. And that is where he attacked Democrats on Monday night — as he did Saturday at another political event in Nevada.

“This has become the party of Maxine Waters and Nancy Pelosi,” he said of the California Democrats, saying they “don’t mind” crime and favor open borders.

“They want to protect illegals coming into the country, much more than they want to protect you,” the president said, repeating a line he has used at several events recently. “I don’t want [more immigration] judges. I want ICE and Border Patrol agents.”

Though he feted McMaster at the start of the event, like other political rallies, the Airport High School appearance was all about Trump.

He dropped his line about needing “more Republicans” in elected office, he acknowledged is plea for voters to head to the polls there Tuesday was mostly about himself. Why? Because he doesn’t want the media to call it a “defeat” for him.

“Please,” he told the crowd, “get your asses out tomorrow and vote.”

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