Donald Trump’s first visit to Baltimore as president was a quick one — just three hours to talk with U.S. House Republicans holding a retreat in the city. Here are the takeaways from touchdown to takeoff of the president’s Marine One helicopter.
Rally the troops
The president delivered a rambling, joking pep talk aimed at firing up the House Republicans in advance of the 2020 election.
In its informal tone, the speech was akin to the campaign-style rallies he often holds around the country. There was little that sounded new to the audience. Rather, this was a chatty, political medley of past positions.
Trump seems to relish friendly audiences — he is particularly relaxed in those settings — and the GOP representatives are obviously his allies.
Location, location, location
It was a speech that could have been delivered in any city. After accusing Baltimore over the summer of being corrupt and “rodent infested,” the president waited until nearly the end before mentioning the city at all.
“We’re going to fight for the future of cities like Baltimore that have been destroyed by decades of failed and corrupt rule,” he said.
House Chaplain Pat Conroy’s blessing at the dinner included a prayer of thanks for gathering “in this place” and a request “to build a friendship and relationship.”
Baltimore seemed an unusual setting for a partisan speech by a Republican because the city is so heavily Democratic. And the president often appears in cities where his base is sure to come out in force.
Maryland Democrats have accused Trump of criticizing Baltimore for its crime and other issues without proposing remedies.
The president’s motorcade passed by loud, sign-waving protesters near the Marriott Baltimore Waterfront hotel, but it’s unclear whether the president took notice. There were some supporters, sporting Trump 2020 signs, mixed in the crowd.
Trump vs. Democrats
It was a speech touting the president’s record on the economy, trade, border control and other issues.
And it was about mocking his enemies. Those included congressional Democrats and Democratic presidential candidates.
As Trump often does, he referred to former Vice President Joe Biden as “Sleepy Joe” and said he thought U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts was “gone” from the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, but that she “has risen from the ashes.”
Trump said nobody can pronounce the name of Democratic candidate Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, adding that Buttigieg “is doing a lousy job of running his own city.”
Biden, Warren and Buttigieg were participating with other candidates in a debate Thursday night in Houston.
And then there’s the media
The president coupled the media with the Democrats in his attacks.
“It’s the Democrats and it’s the media. We’re fighting two battles,” he told his fellow Republicans. “The Democrats and the media. It’s as if they’re one. They are one. They’re working together, they’re colluding,” he said, joking about potential impeachment charges to laughter and applause.
How it played
The audience could hardly have been more receptive. All House members are up for re-election with Trump in 2020, and the fates of those in competitive districts will be tied to his popularity or unpopularity.
Before Trump left the stage, House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy told him: “We’re with you, we’ll never get tired of winning and we’ll always put America first.”