Listen to audio version of this article
An ocean of red MAGA hats at the Wildwood Convention Center in Wildwood welcomed the president to a packed house. The Center was said to have a capacity of 7,500 but over 100,000 tickets had been requested. The chosen few managed to score a space inside to listen to the president speak for about an hour.
Earlier, President Trump and Congressman Jeff Van Drew arrived together on Air Force One and drove in by motorcade. This was the president’s first time holding a re-election rally in New Jersey, a state typically seen as hostile to Trump, but he arrived to a cheering crowd. Protestors and hecklers were nowhere inside, only the true faithful. Any opposition was relegated to the streets, amid throngs of Trump supporters who had been unable to gain entry.
The president was announced and entered to the song “Proud To Be An American.” He opened by saying, “I love New Jersey and I’m thrilled to be back in the Garden State, together we’re achieving historic victories for New Jersey families.”
He spoke of a booming economy, record employment rates for New Jersey and the nation as a whole, touted the destruction of ISIS and hailed the killing of Iranian General Solemani.
“Thanks to the courage of our warriors,” Trump said, “the ISIS caliphate has been totally destroyed and its savage founder and leader al Baghdadi is dead.” He referenced the death of Iranian General Solemani, saying he was “a man actively planning new attacks, but we stopped him cold. Yet Washington Democrats like Crazy Bernie and Nervous Nancy Pelosi opposed our action to save American lives.”
While the Trump administration was “creating jobs and killing terrorists,” Trump said “Democrats are obsessed with crazy witch hunts and partisans crusades” and asserted that the “opposition party” was unable to win elections, so they were determined to steal the 2016 election.
“Radical rage filled socialists,” the president declared, “the Democrat Party is the socialist party, maybe worse, voters are making a mass exodus and we are welcoming them to the Republican Party with wide open arms. And the Republican party is doing great.” With that segue, and with Democrats thoroughly trashed, the president then welcomed the architect of his visitation to New Jersey: Congressman Jeff Van Drew. Van Drew, who had been a Democrat until he switched parties, was hailed as “very brave” and “a courageous leader who has had enough of [Democrat] extremism, socialism, vile hoaxes and scams.”
With Congressman Van Drew on his side, Trump may have seen him and his change of party as a doorway into a previously untouchable blue state. It seems fitting, then, that Trump attempted to establish a political beachhead at a shore town in New Jersey. “I have to tell you a few weeks ago Jeff was one of the few brave and principled Democrat lawmakers who stood up to the House Democrats and their outrageous abuse of power,” Trump said. “…they can’t win an election so they’re trying to steal an election, it’s not happening folks, Jeff had the guts to stand against the left wing fanatics….”
Van Drew spoke briefly to the audience, praising the president and exalting the achievements to which he lays claim. Van Drew said, “He is a man who kept his word to ensure that the eyes of the world are on South Jersey and all of us. The USA is a great nation, the greatest that civilization has ever known, do we want to keep it that way?”
The president denounced the media from time to time during his speech, the first time eliciting a response of boos and downward thumbs as the crowd turned to heap scorn on the cameramen and journalists broadcasting the rally to the wider country. Unsurprisingly, he spoke of “fake news” and said they were “very dishonest.”
Trump resumed the podium and acknowledged NJ GOP Chairman Douglas Steinhart and Trump
campaign co-chairs Senators Pennachio and Testa. He also saluted Kellyanne Conway, herself a New Jersey native, and said former Governor Chris Christie was a “great guy.” Aside from Van Drew, Conway was the only other person to speak.
“Mr. President,” Conway said, “I think South Jersey is Trump country.” Conway cited achievements including “two dead terrorists” and said “that’s two terms.”
President Trump did not directly mention any New Jersey politicians other than Van Drew, Steinhardt, Christie, Testa, and Pennacchio. He did, however, blast immigration-related policies established by Trenton. “Right here in New Jersey, your state’s Democrat leaders have instituted sanctuary policies’ that result in ‘dangerous predators’ begin released.” He took aim at sanctuary cities—a staple of Gov. Phil Murphy’s platform—saying that ICE was being hindered in its work to arrest and remove “criminal aliens.” “What the hell is going on? The criminal aliens are free to continue their crime spree.” During his speech, Trump spoke of Cumberland and Middlesex County incidents where illegal or undocumented immigrants had been arrested, released, and committed crimes again but without mentioning specifics.
Trump thanked ICE and law enforcement, saying they were “tough” and it wasn’t “a job you want to do.” He also thanked the president of Mexico who he said had deployed Mexican soldiers to protect their northern, or the American southern, border.
The bulk of the speech consisted of equal parts achievement on the part of his administration, and condemnation of the Democratic Party. On the economy, Trump blasted Presidents Bush and Obama, saying under “your favorite president” individuals were earning more than ever. From topics on healthcare reform, manufacturing, immigration, and national defense, Trump said that he had accomplished more in the first three years than any other president in American history.
“The US lost 60,000 factories because of stupid trade deals and bad leadership,” under Bush and Obama.
“US is now the number one producers of oil and natural gas anywhere in the world,” he said to cheers. “We don’t need anybody else’s anymore, it’s so nice.” He said, “what happened was incredible” but “extreme liberals” were imperiling progress through initiatives such as “The Green New Deal.”
On healthcare, Trump cracked the whip, saying, “Washington Democrats have never been more extreme than they are right now, these people are crazy. They’re taking their cues from socialists like Bernie, pushing a government takeover of healthcare to strip 180 million Americans of their private plans. The plans of every Democrat would demolish the economy of New Jersey.” He couched the situation in simple, stark terms. “Healthcare is finally working and [Democrats] want to destroy it.”
Democrats were in no uncertain terms, the bad guys. He described them as the party of high taxes, high crime, open borders, late term abortion, and corruption. “Democrats stand for crime, corruption, and chaos. Republicans stand for law, order, and justice.”
While relatively little of the president’s speech was New Jersey specific, he did incorporate elements of New Jersey into what was really a national address. “From Morristown to Vineland, and Paterson to Pennington, and Camden to Clifton, all the way down the shore to Ocean City and Sea Isle and Stone Harbor, and right here in Wildwood, this has always been the home of the proud, loyal, and very very incredible Americans, and my friends. They’re tough, they’re smart, they’re great people, it’s called Jersey. This is the state that pioneered the boardwalk, the diner, and the motion picture, and gave the world American greats like Thomas Edison and Frank Sinatra, Old Blue Eyes,” Trump said, “he was a piece of work!”
Without any doubt, Trump was master of the stage and the occasion. New Jersey was his vessel, and Trump was very explicit in terms of his word choice that New Jersey was not the problem, but specifically the Democratic leadership—although he never mentioned anyone in particular, nor did he address issues such as the state’s strict gun control or high taxation. Only on sanctuary cities and immigration policy did the president seem to incorporate a particular state-level issue as part of his speech.
Trump closed his rally saying, “Together, we will make America wealthy again. We will make American strong again. We will make America proud again. We will make America safe again. And we will make America great again! Thank you New Jersey!”