MANCHESTER, N.H. (CN) – President Donald Trump addressed a raucous crowd of 11,000 in the gritty, working-class town of Manchester, New Hampshire, Monday night, touting the economy and decrying illegal immigration less than 12 hours before the state’s Democrats start going to the polls to try to find someone to challenge him.
“The Democratic Party wants to run your health care but they can’t even run a caucus in Iowa,” the president joked. “Does anybody know who won? Nobody knows who won.”
As the enthusiastic crowd frequently broke into now-familiar, three-beat chants – “build that wall,” “drain the swamp,” “lock her up,” and “U-S-A!” – Trump proclaimed, “We are the hot party. We’re the party with all the enthusiasm … We have so much enthusiasm it’s not even funny.”
New Hampshire is a critical swing state in the general election and the Trump team pulled out all the stops for the event. The rally included speeches by Vice President Mike Pence and Donald Trump Jr. Also in attendance were Senators Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Rand Paul, R-Ky., House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, and Trump’s daughter Ivanka.
Perhaps previewing the general election campaign, the rally focused heavily on jobs and immigration. Pence extolled Trump’s record of creating jobs for “hard-working, blue-collar Americans.”
Trump extensively cited economic statistics. He bragged that “we can forget globalism,” said of China “now they respect us again,” and crowed, “Bye-bye NAFTA!”
Trump also boasted that “we have deported record numbers of gang members.” And echoing his famous remarks when he launched his 2016 campaign at Trump Tower, he again described many illegal immigrants as “murderers and rapists.”
The president revived his practice from 2016 of reciting the lyrics to the Al Wilson song “The Snake,” which he used to compare illegal immigrants to a murderous serpent who bites an innocent woman who cares for him. Trump used the lyrics even though two of songwriter Oscar Brown’s children have objected and sent him a cease and desist letter.
The final line of the song, “You knew damn well I was a snake before you took me in,” drew one of the largest cheers of the night.
Although the crowd was overwhelmingly white – reflecting the general demographics of New Hampshire – Trump repeatedly cited successes for African-Americans during his administration, including record-low black unemployment. He also endorsed school choice and criminal justice reform.
“The Democrat party has betrayed African-Americans,” he claimed, adding, “we are the party of equal opportunity,” to which the crowd chanted, “U-S-A!”
As for the Democratic candidates, Trump and Pence focused their fire on Senator Bernie Sanders. Pence noted that Sanders had referred to Iranian military leader Qasem Soleimani as “some government official.”
“He was not ‘some government official,’” Pence said. “He was a terrorist.”
Trump implied that the Democratic party establishment was once again trying to keep “crazy Bernie” from winning the nomination. “They’re doing it to you again, Bernie, they’re doing it to you again,” he said.
“I’ve been around since the Nixon era and I’ve never seen anyone who can bring people out the way Trump can, although Reagan was close,” Jess Edwards, a Republican state representative, said. “And it’s not like there’s much new; 85% of the speech is the same old thing people have heard before. But they come out anyway.”
Edwards said people perceive Trump as a fighter, unlike Mitt Romney and other previous Republicans.
The rally certainly had the aura of a battle. If Senator Elizabeth Warren’s speeches can seem like a popular college lecture, the Trump event had the atmosphere of a Stanley Cup final. The vast majority of attendees wore Trump hats, T-shirts, buttons and other items. People high-fived each other while waiting in line for nearly an hour to go through security. For blocks around the arena, dozens of vendors hawked merchandise, much of it humorously vulgar. A large sign at the entrance asked attendees to remove clothing that featured expletives.
One attendee drove three hours from Maine to attend his first Trump rally.
“Trump hasn’t lied to us,” he explained. “He did what he said he was going to do. And people want to come and show appreciation for that.”
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