PENSACOLA, Fla. — What has become President Trump's calculation — and great hope — amid the spiraling Russia investigation, his historically low poll numbers, troubles abroad, uneven legislative progress and the seemingly never-ending chaos emanating from his White House can be summed up in one sentence, he said here Friday night.
"With us it goes up, and with them it goes down, and that's the end of the election," the New York real estate developer-turned-president said of the stock market, predicting his reelection three years in advance.
Trump showed up in vintage form for 76 minutes Friday night, mocking Arnold Schwarzenegger's "Apprentice" ratings, joking that Hillary Clinton must have listened to "the Russians" when she didn't visit Michigan or Wisconsin in the 2016 election, and torching protesters from the "resistance" while twirling and holding his arm up, as if to carry a sign.
He perpetuated ideas that fuel his supporters' view of the world, such as saying Chicago may be more dangerous than Afghanistan and attributing it to "others."
"What the hell is happening in Chicago?" Trump said. The president said the legal system was "rotten" when his supporters chanted "Lock her up!" about Clinton, without explaining how it was so, or who was responsible, or noting that he was in charge.
He said department stores were once again saying "Merry Christmas" because of him, not mentioning how one would even measure greetings. ("Merry Christmas" banners were hung around the arena, and fake snow was pumped into the arena upon completion of Trump's remarks.)
And he returned to the usual selling points: Washington is stacked against him even though he is president, the media is terrible, the polls are fake, a southern border wall needs to be built, the Islamic State needs to be killed, immigrants need to be stopped. "We're going to have borders on top of borders," he said.
Trump took repeated aim at Clinton during the rally, recounting her missteps and continuing to revel in his defeat of the Democrat more than a year ago.
"You remember the word 'deplorable?' " Trump said, referencing Clinton's description during the campaign of half of his supporters as belonging in a "basket of deplorables."
"That was one of the reasons she lost," Trump said. "And now we're all proud deplorables."
Earlier, he mocked the "resistance" that has opposed his presidency.
"Hillary resisted, and you know what happened, she lost the election in a landslide," Trump said, prompting chants of "Lock her up!" that were a staple of his campaign rallies last year.
In recent days, Trump has expressed disbelief on Twitter that, in his view, the FBI was more lenient with Clinton during its investigation of her use of a private email server while secretary of state than it has been with his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, who recently pleaded guilty to lying to agents about his contacts with the former Russian ambassador.
"This is a rigged system. This is a sick system from the inside," Trump said. "We have a lot of sickness in our institutions."
Yet more than anything else, he talked about the economy — and tried to equate his 11 months in office with numbers that are arguably beyond his control, believing them his surest way to keep and gain support.
Trump has faced a difficult year, and the mood inside his White House has at times been bleak and unsettled as aides go in for special counsel interviews and former allies find themselves in court — either to be indicted or to plead guilty.
But in conversations with friends and allies in the past month, Trump has consistently come back to one thing: He says the economy is booming, will continue to improve and that voters will care about that above all — tuning out much of the rest. He believes his voters put him in office because he was successful in New York and on his NBC reality series, "The Apprentice."
"Had the Democrats won that election, instead of being up 39 percent in your 401(k), you'd be down 50 percent," Trump said, with no factual basis for the numbers. He added: "They want to grow all sorts of things you don't even think about," Trump said of Democrats in Washington, sounding ominous with scant detail.
In many ways, Trump has numbers to boast about. The unemployment rate has dropped to 4.1 percent. Jobs have surged almost every month. The stock market has climbed — as Trump noted, hitting record high after record high. And GDP has grown.
Still, Trump remains below 40 percent in many polls. And the economy can go down just as quickly as it went up. Many of his other woes could also damage him more than the economy, including the threat posed by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and the frustration from many Republican supporters at legislative inaction. Polls show many voters have grown tired of his shtick — and tweets.
For now, though, Trump is determined to associate himself with the success of the current moment. Aides say he continually reminds them of the economy — and wants to find ways to talk about it even at unrelated events. He says voters will overlook other things.
During a lengthy economic soliloquy Friday, he bragged about the consumer confidence survey — noting it was the highest in 17 years. "It was not like that in your last administration," he said.
Trump said black homeownership is higher than ever, which isn't true, and said Hispanics were happy with Trump because they had more jobs and wanted the wall — which polls indicate isn't true.
He boasted, without citing much evidence, about the fast return of coal in beleaguered states, talking about his love for West Virginia. He said Vietnam's president liked the coal of the United States better than before — though it was unclear how often the Vietnamese president had judged it.
He said companies were no longer moving overseas, though even some of the ones he has boasted about, such as Carrier, are moving jobs abroad. If they do, he said, they will face steeper penalties, without specifying what those would be.
He said he'd cut more regulations than any president other than Abraham Lincoln and would be cutting more every week. "Honest Abe Lincoln, he was a regulation guy," Trump says. "Abe Lincoln was a regulation cutter. Can you believe that?"
Trump said economic growth would have surged to 4 percent had the hurricanes not hit this year — and that people couldn't believe it. He said TV anchors were depressed because the jobs numbers were so good Friday; the United States added 228,000 jobs.
The president said people were getting so rich now that he was president that they would have "five, six or seven" jobs to choose from.
"I wish I could take 10 or 15 percent," he said, drawing a laugh. He added: "Everyone is making a fortune."
Whether Trump can make the case as a billionaire that he is the reason for any economic success remains unclear, but the master salesman is trying.
On Friday night, he said that given his administration's tax plan, trade deals and the continued confidence people are feeling in him, things would improve even more. Many of the details of the tax plan are still not finished, and even some of his supporters are skeptical it will actually help the middle class and not the wealthy.
"It's all psychological to some extent," he said. "And that's what creates greatness."
Dawsey reported from West Palm Beach, Fla.