President Donald Trump held his first (although almost certainly not his last) North Carolina Keep America Great campaign rally last week in Greenville. A couple of us Civitas team members attended the event to provide a conservative perspective on the president’s visit for our audience.
If you’ve seen coverage from the mainstream media about the rally, you’ve likely heard about the crowd’s reaction to the president’s comments regarding Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-MN). A chant that lasted only seconds gained nearly all the media coverage from the 2+ hour event, where the president himself spoke for 90 minutes.
In an interview with ABC11, I gave some brief thoughts on the controversial chant, which you can watch here. In the portion of the interview that didn’t make it into the brief segment, I commented on the crowd’s reaction being not anti-immigrant, but an expression of frustration for Rep. Omar specifically due to her anti-American and anti-Semitic statements. However, the on-going feud between the president and the congressional “Squad” (Reps. Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), and Ayanna Pressley (D-MA)) seems to be escalating in a way that is unlikely to be productive for the good of the nation in the long run.
Now that the elephant in the room has been addressed, here are some things you probably didn’t hear about the Greenville Trump rally.
Trump’s endorsements for current Congressional races
North Carolina has two special congressional races taking place this fall. The Republican nominees for the districts are each currently serving in the state legislature. Rep. Greg Murphy (R-Pitt) is running for the third congressional district, following the passing of Congressman Walter Jones last year. Sen. Dan Bishop (R-Mecklenburg) is making a bid for the ninth district seat, for which the 2018 election was overturned amid allegations of absentee voter fraud. The president brought both candidates on to the stage during his speech, fully endorsing them and allowing them to address the crowd. Greenville is in the third congressional district, making this especially impactful for that race. Murphy also spoke before the president’s arrival.
Lack of 2020 candidate features
Two notable absences from the night’s lineup were Lt. Gov. Dan Forest and U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis. Both politicians were in attendance at the event and got “shout-outs” from the president, but neither came onto the stage before or during the president’s time. This seemed odd to many, given that they are both presumed to have big elections in 2020. They both face primary challenges in March.
Trump’s policy agenda.
The president spoke on a wide array of policy topics, from immigration to the economy, and from national security to healthcare. As the nation’s chief executive, it is unsurprising that he seemed to know a little bit about everything. But he did not attempt to make specific policy promises; a smart move, given the Democratic control of the U.S. House of Representatives. Trump instead focused more of his substantive comments on the 2020 election. If Republicans regain the House next year, the president is much more likely to be able to accomplish his remaining legislative agenda items.
Trump as a party leader
The president’s remarks were noticeably different from his 2016 campaign strategy. In his first election, part of Trump’s appeal came from his status as a political outsider. This year, Trump has taken up the mantle of the leader of the Republican party. Several times during the speech, Trump compared the two parties, casting a vision for why (he believes) one would lead the nation in the right direction as the other cannot.
Other political content in the president’s speech included a discussion of the leading candidates for the Democratic nomination and the comments about the far-left’s emerging congressional leaders.
Overall, the event seemed to be a success for the president. The 8,000-person venue was filled to capacity. The president continues to bounce back quickly from his controversies, and this will likely be no different. The media outrage over any given scandal has long-since lost its potency during Trump’s presidency. With 15 electoral votes up for grabs in the purple state of North Carolina, the president will likely make many more trips here leading up to November 2020.