MANCHESTER, N.H. — President Trump told a packed crowd here Thursday night that supporters and critics alike must vote for him in 2020 because otherwise they’d see their personal finances depleted.
“The bottom line is, I know you like me, this is a love fest, but you have no choice but to vote for me because your 401(k)’s down the tubes. Everything is going to be down the tubes,” Trump said. “So whether you love me or hate me, you’ve got to vote for me.”
This reelection pitch mirrors what many of his campaign advisers say: Trump can win suburban voters and others who are skeptical of his personal style as long as the economy stays strong.
Trump’s defense of his economic record comes amid signs in recent days of a possible downturn, which would complicate Trump’s message over the next 15 months.
An unusual development in the bond market called an “inverted yield curve” created concern that another economic recession may follow. The U.S. Treasury is paying investors more to take out short-term bonds, rather than longer-term ones, which suggests investors are losing faith in the near-term prospects for the economy.
Trump seemed particularly attuned to concerns about his handling of the economy, including his decision to impose tariffs on China. He falsely said that action has resulted in billions of dollars coming in from China and that American farmers are the “biggest beneficiaries.”
“I never said China was going to be easy,” he said, contradicting his 2018 assertion that “trade wars are good and easy to win.”
The stemwinder included a jeremiad against windmills, praise for campaign manager Brad Parscale for being so tall and a long riff on Hillary Clinton’s email practices, resulting in a brief “lock her up” chant.
He told the crowd that NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg loved him, discussed personnel issues in the Washington bureau of the New York Times and mocked a protester’s weight.
He also lavished praise on his former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, who is considering a run for Senate against Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), but did not endorse or call Lewandowski onstage as some thought he might. “I think he’d be tough to beat. I’ll tell you he’d go to Washington and have you in mind,” Trump said.
Trump did not mention Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to ban Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) from visiting the country — which dominated headlines throughout the day — though he spoke briefly about his administration’s support for Israel. He mentioned Omar by name twice but quickly moved on to other subjects without drawing any reaction beyond a few boos.
Trump’s biggest applause line of the night came when he echoed the National Rifle Association’s argument that “it’s not the gun that pulls the trigger, it’s the person holding the gun,” less than two weeks after back-to-back mass shootings in Texas and Ohio. Trump returned to the Republican position that the best way to solve the issue of gun violence in the country is through mental health and not stricter gun control, backing off a robust endorsement of enhanced background checks for firearm purchases.
The meandering speech included unproven statements about protecting health coverage for people with preexisting conditions and about progress building the border wall. He briefly spoke about his administration’s work combating the opioid epidemic, which devastated New Hampshire but was interrupted by chants of “build the wall.”
Trump mocked some of the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, directing most of his jabs at former vice president Joe Biden for being “sleepy,” appearing to close his eyes onstage. He also provided punditry about Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s chances.
“Pocahontas is rising,” he said, using a derogatory nickname he has given Warren (D-Mass.), before saying he maybe should have waited closer to the 2020 election before attacking her about her heritage. But he assured the crowd that if she wins he can “easily revive” it.
New Hampshire catapulted Trump’s candidacy after he dominated the Republican field in the 2016 primary contest. He then lost the state in the general election to Hillary Clinton by less than one-half of a percentage point.
Trump’s would-be Democratic challengers have been campaigning in the state for months. His return to the state for only the second time as president is evidence of how competitive New Hampshire’s four electoral college votes will be come November 2020.
Trump’s job approval among New Hampshire residents has remained consistent over the past year, with 53 percent disapproving and 42 percent approving, according to a University of New Hampshire survey released this week.
The rallygoers, Trump’s most avid supporters, said that even if the economy dips, they wouldn’t blame Trump.
“The economy hasn’t been as good as this before. It’s not like it was eight years ago. A lot of people are saying that if the economy tanked it would put people off Trump,” said Dennis Bourassa, 65. “I personally don’t believe that, because it’s a global economy, what happens over there will impact us in some way.”
Sharon Foley, 72, agreed.
“If the economy dropped, I’d think that someone else in the world fixed it against America,” she said.