(CN) — Fresh off of his renomination as the Republican candidate for president, incumbent Donald Trump returned to his usual freewheeling self at a rally in Manchester, New Hampshire Friday night.
Trump indicated that after the formality of the Republican National Convention, he was ready to get back to his typical carnival-barker style.
“Now we’re in New Hampshire and we can wing it,” he said to cheers from the crowd.
Trump arrived just short of an hour late and spoke to a crowd of about 1,400 Friday evening, at an event which required masks under New Hampshire’s rule mandating them for groups larger than 100 people. The requirement appeared to be lightly enforced, if at all, as many attendees went maskless.
Despite this, Trump did not repeat his past claims that the Covid-19 virus was a hoax, instead downplaying the 181,000 coronavirus deaths in the U.S. since its arrival in March and claiming that three new vaccines are on their way.
Trump spent most of the rally slamming his opponent Joe Biden and other Democratic politicians, whom he blamed for the civil unrest that has swept the U.S. all summer. He alternately stoked fears that Biden’s administration would bring more of the same and assured the crowd that Biden would never win.
“Joe Biden is the puppet of the radical left movement which seeks to obliterate and destroy everything that you hold dear,” he said.
He paid particular attention to suburbia, which he claimed — without evidence — that Biden wanted to destroy. He also boasted about his repeal of an Obama-era update to the Fair Housing Act, saying that there would be no more low-income housing in suburbs. The repeal will not, in fact, accomplish that.
As usual, Trump also focused heavily on his own popularity.
“The poll numbers have swung. If you go back six months before the plague flew in from China… this election was over. Then I had to go back to work,” he joked.
The polls have not swung. Biden has held a steady lead over Trump in a majority of polls since March, during which Trump had a very brief spike.
Trump made only brief mention of vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris.
“How about her, is she a beauty?” he said.
He speculated about the possibility of Harris taking the presidency over from Biden.
“I wanna see the first woman president also, but I don’t want to see a woman president get into that position the way she’d do it,” he said.
Trump also paid mention to a tense confrontation between protesters at the White House and police protecting Republican Kentucky Senator Rand Paul after Thursday night’s conclusion to the Republican National Convention.
“The thugs outside, because the Democratic mayor of Washington D.C. — it’s another Democrat that’s not believing in law and order, and you know we give a lot of money to Washington D.C. to run it, but she doesn’t do a good job of running it, the mayor… they walked out to a bunch of thugs. And that wasn’t — that wasn’t friendly protesters, they were thugs,” Trump said.
Protesters, whom Trump also called “anarchists, criminals, rioters, looters and flag burners” featured heavily in his speech. He briefly mulled over invoking the Insurrection Act to suppress protests, a threat he has made before but has not made good on.
He praised the use of the National Guard to suppress protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin and Minneapolis along with the actions of federal agents in Portland, which drew national attention last month when agents began grabbing protesters off the street without identifying themselves and carrying them away in unmarked vans.
Trump’s speech, like most of his public appearances, was peppered with falsehoods and errors, some bizarre. Early on, he told the crowd that he had achieved total energy independence, and boasted about low gas prices, which have been low since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, during which the price of oil briefly dropped below zero. He later claimed that New Hampshire was importing most of its oil from Russia because of a stalled pipeline project in New York.
In a baffling aside, Trump also said that “America will put the first woman on the moon, and be the first nation to plant its beautiful flag there.”
NASA does have a plan to put a woman on the moon by 2024, but the first American flag planted there was, notably, placed by Neil Armstrong on national television in 1969. The Soviet Union used an unmanned probe to place its flag on the moon in 1959.
The rally was Trump’s first visit to New Hampshire since its primary in February. His campaign cancelled another planned visit to the city of Portsmouth in April, citing concerns about Tropical Storm Fay, which largely missed Portsmouth. Trump later said the rally was cancelled because of the pandemic.
A win in New Hampshire would be a boon for Trump, who lost the swing state in 2016 by less than half a percentage point. The Granite State has voted for Democratic presidential candidates consistently since 2004, but was a Republican stronghold for much of the 20th century. The most recent poll in the state shows Biden with a comfortable lead on Trump, with the support of 51% of voters to Trump’s 43%.