Trump playful in Duluth
President Donald Trump played to a fawning crowd of supporters in Duluth on Wednesday.
"I am thrilled to be back in the great state of Minnesota with truly some of the most incredible people anywhere on earth — you know that," Trump said to launch a campaign rally speech that went just longer than an hour.
The Trump speech struck notes which consistently drew bursts of adulation from the crowd inside Amsoil Arena. According to Jeff Stark, with DECC venue operations, some 8,372 people attended the rally — a capacity crowd for the event's configuration. Many people waiting in line were turned away at the door
As President Trump made a slow walk toward the podium, he waved and played to the crowd while Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the U.S.A.” blared over the soundsystem. Supporters greeted him with a standing ovation and chants of "U-S-A."
Trump wore a dark suit and long red tie as he stood at a podium affixed with the presidential seal and flanked by a pair of transparent teleprompters, which outlined a familiar speech built around his favorite topic of "winning."
"We're going to keep winning," he said, before repeating the word three times.
Trump wasted little time introducing Pete Stauber, the Hermantown politician and retired Duluth police lieutenant who won the GOP endorsement in the race for the open seat in Minnesota's 8th Congressional District. Trump said throughout the speech that more Republicans were needed in Congress to help him complete his agenda.
"Pete is a great guy," Trump said. "You've got to get Pete a victory."
Stauber had asked the president during a phone call in March to campaign with him in Duluth. Stauber was all smiles, having had his brother, U.S. Olympic women's hockey coach Robb Stauber, join the roster of warm-up speakers. Robb Stauber told the crowd his brother was a selfless leader who would dig into the hard corners of governance like a rugged hockey player would do on the ice.
"I love this country," Pete Stauber said during brief remarks after the president ceded him the podium. "I love our freedoms and I love our Constitution."
Trump spoke from the south end of the arena — a giant American flag and Stauber's family, friends and other VIPs in the bleachers at the president's back.
The arena was festooned with Trump campaign slogans. There was an open floor around the stage and a standing crowd of people pressed near the president's feet as if they were part of a rock concert.
Trump touched only briefly on two pieces of current news — one national and one local. Regarding the policy of separating families at the border between Mexico and the United States, he brought up the executive order he'd signed earlier in the day to end the practice of taking migrant children from parents detained for border infractions. He insisted on keeping a zero-tolerance stance for prosecuting border violations.
"Today I signed an executive order," he said. "We're going to keep families together, but the border is going to be just as tough as it's been."
Regarding proposals to mine precious metals in northern Minnesota, Trump cited mining in the Superior National Forest specifically, but seemed to immediately contradict himself.
"We'll do it carefully and if it doesn't pass muster, maybe we don't do it at all," he said. "But it's going to happen, I will tell you."
Outside of those nuggets, the rest of the Trump speech was mostly rote campaign rhetoric about putting people back to work, lower taxes and border security. He started his speech by bringing up his recent summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
"It was a great meeting and Kim Jong-un will turn that country into a great successful country," Trump said. "Let me tell you this — a year and a half ago nobody thought that was possible."
He drew whoops and shouts of approval from the crowd when a handful of isolated protesters were escorted from the floor.
"Go home to your mother," he said multiple times.
The crowd's mood throughout the speech was light and the president playful. When he mentioned his 2016 general election opponent, Hillary Clinton, he gave the crowd time to chant "lock her up." When he mentioned immigration, they responded with "build the wall."
"It's already happening," Trump said — though not as fast as he'd like due to what he called obstructing Democrats.
When he targeted the media — as he often does — Trump's supporters turned in unison to jeer the media horde covering the event.
And when he described his supporters, he did so by also tying them to himself.
"We talk about the forgotten men and women," Trump said, addressing a predominantly white crowd. "Our people are the smartest and hardest working. You ever notice they call the other side the elite? I have a much better apartment than they do. I'm smarter than they are. I'm richer than they are. I became president and they didn't and I'm representing the most lovely and best people on earth — the deplorables. You remember that?"
Cheers went up — and not for the last time.