When President Trump walks onto the stage at a campaign rally, he usually takes his time and soaks up as much of the energy of the crowd as he can. He waves, pumps his fist, points out individuals in the crowd and applauds along with his supporters.
He then takes his place at the lectern and spends the next hour or so speaking directly to the thousands of supporters who journeyed to see him — often waiting for hours, sometimes in the intense summer heat or pouring rain — along with the hundreds of thousands of others around the country and the world watching on television or online.
For that hour, there are no senior aides trying to control him or his message. There are no shouted questions from journalists, who are confined in a “press pen” far away from the stage. There’s just a president and his most dedicated fans, who cheer on nearly everything he says.
Ahead of the 2016 election, these rallies embodied Trump’s approach to campaigning — hastily organized, simplistic, loud, unpredictable and all-consuming. His supporters would show up in patriotic costumes and make homemade signs, often channeling the candidate’s political incorrectness and jovial nastiness in doing so.
Trump celebrated his unexpected election victory with a series of rallies. Throughout his presidency, he has continued to host campaign rallies, giving him a break from the stuffiness of the White House and the expectations of the nation. As the midterm elections approach, Trump has used the power of his rallies to help congressional candidates, often inviting them onto the stage with him and sometimes even allowing them a few minutes with the microphone and his crowd.
But these rallies are about Trump, his message and his supporters.
This week, he went to Duluth, Minn., where an energetic crowd cheered and booed and chanted. Many of the rally’s loudest moments hit over 100 dB, as loud as a jet takeoff. Here, we break down what his speech, and his fans’ reactions, show us about Trump as campaigner.
Starting at 2 minutes, 20 seconds
“Thank you very much, Duluth.”
President Trump received a standing ovation of more than three minutes as he took the stage in a large hockey arena in downtown Duluth. More than 8,000 of his supporters — and a few protesters — had waited for hours in the hot sun to see him. Nearly everyone in the crowd raised a phone or camera to capture a glimpse of the president to share with friends, relatives and co-workers. As he has since he became the Republican nominee for president, Trump entered to Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA.”
The president’s entrance was one of the loudest points of the night, near rock-concert-level decibels.
Starting at 13 minutes, 28 seconds
“These are very dishonest people.”
The president lit into the media early. Many of the president’s supporters have long distrusted the media, accusing major news outlets of not respecting conservative views. Trump tapped into this feeling during the campaign and continues to do so, telling his supporters they cannot trust “the fake news” and the critical things that they might read or hear about his presidency. Before the rally started, the arena scoreboards played news-broadcast-style segments featuring the president’s daughter-in-law and a promotion for the president’s Twitter and Facebook accounts, which they called “Your source for Real News.” Whenever the president attacked the media during the rally, his fans would usually start booing and yelling at reporters in the arena.
Following a long boo of the media, the crowd breaks out in a chant of “CNN sucks” before starting to cheer again.
Starting at 15 minutes, 25 seconds
“We got back our hostages, and I didn’t pay $1.8 billion to get back our hostages.”
Trump touted his recent summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore. Many of the president’s supporters believe that critics of the president are so blinded by anger over the 2016 election that they can’t see all of the good that the president is doing — including the summit. Although critics say that nothing tangible has yet come from that meeting, many supporters view it as a historic moment and believe that North Korea is no longer a threat. As soon as Trump mentioned the summit, he was drowned out by cheers from the crowd. A few people shouted: “Thank you!”
The crowd cheers Trump’s mention of Singapore at the beginning of this clip, and then “total denuclearization.” The biggest cheer here, though, is an implied criticism of President Obama.
The money Trump referred to — actually $1.7 billion — was Iran’s money all along, and was sent to Iran by the Obama administration. U.S. officials insist it was a coincidence that four American hostages were released the same day as the first portion of the total was delivered. See the full breakdown.
Starting at 22 minutes, 11 seconds
“We’re fighting to protect American iron, aluminum, and steel.”
A central message of Trump’s presidential campaign was that the United States was no longer great and no longer respected around the world — something that he has said changed as soon as he was elected president. That message was especially popular in northern Minnesota’s Iron Range, home to several iron ore mines that are expected to benefit from the president placing tariffs on imported steel. When Trump recognized and promised to protect the state’s “very brave miners,” he received one of his loudest standing ovations of the night. For those who feel like their blue-collar jobs are no longer protected or even respected, the president’s comment provided a jolt of pride.
The crowd cheers for America being respected again and for miners. One fan yells “thank you” at the end.
Starting at 22 minutes, 50 seconds
“Obama’s economy? Obama?”
Trump not only knows what he needs to say to get thousands of people to cheer — he also knows what to say to get them to boo. A mention of former president Barack Obama, whom he said the media is trying to credit for the economy, did just that, and Trump quickly followed up with a pitch for electing Republicans in the midterm elections. Although Trump yielded the microphone to the Republican candidate running to represent Minnesota’s 8th Congressional District — which includes Duluth and the Iron Range and is currently represented by a Democrat — after the rally, few supporters could say who that politician was. And to Trump, that doesn’t necessarily matter, because he wants his supporters to think of the midterms as an opportunity to vote in support of him and his policies — and against Obama, Hillary Clinton and other Democrats.
The crowd boos for the former president and cheers at a mention of the midterms.
Obama took office at the end of the Great Recession, the U.S. economy began to improve under his watch, and that steady growth continues under Trump. See the full breakdown.
Starting at 22 minutes, 45 seconds
“The border is going to be just as tough as it’s been.”
The biggest news of the day was that Trump had just signed an executive order to stop his administration’s policy of separating children from their parents when migrant families are caught illegally crossing the southern border. Although a majority of registered voters opposed this policy, according to recent polls, a majority of Republicans supported it. Rather than polling by applause, comparing the reaction to being “tough” at the border to that to the executive order, Trump threw the ideas into a single sentence and allowed the crowd to collectively cheer for both ideas, or whichever one they liked best.
The crowd boos the idea of open borders, cheers Trump’s mention of his executive order and then boos again after the president asks “What the hell is going on” about the stance he says Democrats take.
Democrats support some measures to tighten border security, but they don’t agree with all of Trump’s immigration agenda. See the full breakdown.
Starting at 26 minutes, 11 seconds
“Build that wall! Build that wall! Build that wall!”
Trump rallies often feel like rock concerts. There are groupies who travel to as many rallies as they can and camp out at the front of the line. Many rallygoers show up wearing as much red, white and blue as possible — and then accessorize their outfits with T-shirts, campaign pins, hats and flags sold by vendors not sanctioned by the campaign. And there are the chants that allow rallygoers to feel even more a part of a movement: “Lock her up.” “Drain the swamp.” “USA!” “Build that wall.”
The “build that wall” chant grows and fades, and then the crowd begins a chant of “Trump! Trump! Trump!” in the face of a protester near the end of this clip.
Trump said the wall was already started, but the $1.6 billion came with strings attached and can’t be used to fund a concrete wall. It’s designated for two miles of bollard-style fencing in Imperial County, Calif., east of San Diego. See the full breakdown.
Starting at 30 minutes, 09 seconds
“Get him out of here. Go home to your mom, darling.”
As usual, dozens of protesters gathered near the rally venue, and hundreds more held a counter-rally nearby. Some went in and tried to interrupt the president, only to be drowned out by chants of: “Trump! Trump! Trump!” Confronting protesters has become a sport of sorts at Trump rallies — one that’s especially embraced by young men in the crowd who are excited to yell at liberals. The president often joins in the mocking and, Wednesday night, he described protesters as children who needed to run home to their mommies and mocked the long hair of one of the protesters. As these protesters were led out of the arena by security, several of the young men in the crowd laughed and high-fived, celebrating a moment when they got to show up a liberal.
A protester is being kicked out, prompting alternating boos at the protester and cheers at Trump’s mocking of him — particularly when he asks at the end whether the protester is a man or a woman “because he needs a haircut.”
Starting at 34 minutes, 50 seconds
“And we’ll do it carefully. And maybe, if it doesn’t pass muster, we won’t do it all.”
Here, Trump referred to allowing mining in Minnesota’s remote Superior National Forest, which the Obama administration had tried to block. Most politicians will sprinkle their remarks with references to local sports teams, eateries and issues — and Trump is no different. The issue has sharply divided the state, pitting environmentalists against miners wanting access to more work. Trump stayed vague in his promise, saying that he hopes that it will happen but that it might not. The crowd then applauded whatever version of the promise that they liked best.
The crowd gives a big cheer for exploration in the forest, reacting as the president continues speaking.
Starting at 41 minutes, 25 seconds
“It’s called VA Accountability, where now you bring the person into the office and you say, ‘Jim, I’m sorry to tell you you’re fired.’”
Every now and then, Trump reminds his fans of the reality-game-show line that made him a household name: “You’re fired.” This particular mention came as Trump bragged that he has reformed the Department of Veterans Affairs and made it easier to hold officials there accountable.
The crowd cheers VA accountability -- but the crest is for “you’re fired.”
The Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017 was built on a 2014 law that expanded the firing authority given to the Veterans Affairs secretary. See the full breakdown.
Starting at 46 minutes, 42 seconds
“I’m smarter than they are. I’m richer than they are. I became president and they didn’t.”
For most of his life, Trump has felt snubbed by New York’s elite class, even as he made millions of dollars, bought an expensive Manhattan condo and invaded their social circles. It’s a feeling shared by many of his supporters, especially those who have never seen the need for a college degree. During the presidential campaign, Democrat Hillary Clinton once referred to some of Trump’s supporters as “deplorables” — a made-up word that was quickly embraced by Trump and his supporters. As Trump uttered the nickname in Duluth, the crowd cheered and then began to chant: “USA! USA! USA!”
The crowd enjoys Trump’s recitation of his attributes, and his 2016 win. Their biggest cheer in this clip, though, is for his mention of “the deplorables,” a reference to people including this crowd based on a Clinton comment during the 2016 campaign.
Starting at 52 minutes, 12 seconds
“When I go around and meet foreign leaders, they all congratulate me. ‘Mr. President, congratulations on the growth of the United States. Congratulations.’”
Another Trump success that he and his supporters believe that he’s not getting enough credit for: the booming economy, especially in small towns and rural communities. Although critics of the president have said that this is a continuation of economic growth that started during the Obama administration, Trump and his supporters say that it’s because of him cutting regulations, lowering taxes and talking tough to the nation’s trading partners. They say that there’s a new feeling of optimism — and Trump brags that even foreign nations are noticing.
The crowd cheers for economic growth -- and when he says he’s being congratulated, the cheer grows and becomes a “USA!” chant.
GDP grew 2.3 percent in 2017. Growth was higher in three of the years Barack Obama was in office, and for much of the George W. Bush and Bill Clinton administrations.
Starting at 58 minutes, 15 seconds
“And we will make America great again.”
The rally in Duluth was shorter than most of Trump’s rallies, and as he drew to a close, he recognized the pioneers who long ago settled in Minnesota and gave the state its persona. “They didn’t have a lot of luxury, but they had grit and they had faith and they had courage and they had each other,” Trump said. He compared those pioneers to Minnesotans who voted for him in 2016 and want to rebuild industry in their state, saying: “As long as we are proud of who we are and what we are fighting for, we will never, ever fail.”
As he wraps up, he again gets some of his most sustained, and loudest, cheers. The crowd says, “Make America great again” with the president, who then exits to the Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”
About this story
Design and development by Jake Crump