WILDWOOD – The bartender had a t-shirt reading, “Trump, finally a President with balls.”
This was in a gin mill across the street from the convention center. Rather than watch the rally in the arena, I chose to hang out with those who could not get in.
The crowd, just about all of whom sported some type of Trump attire, was psyched. This was a big moment for them indeed.
And in a bizarre coincidence, or maybe it wasn’t a coincidence, Fox News ( it had to be Fox News) aired a clip of Hillary Clinton. It made no difference what it was about; the crowd responded in predictable fashion, chanting “Lock her up, Lock her up.”
And then the president appeared on the screen. He was actually just across the street, but in this venue, he was only on TV.
The crowd whooped it up. But then a curious thing happened. Many didn’t even seem interested in listening to the speech.
They kept on chatting and drinking, drowning out the sound from the TV sets, which were on full volume.
There were exceptions. The president brought up a beaming Jeff Van Drew and there were cheers all around.
The guy standing next to me at the bar said to no one in particular that Van Drew was a very “courageous” fellow.
And soon thereafter Chris Christie was shown sitting in the audience.
The crowd in the bar booed. So much for party loyalty.
Sure, some did listen to the speech, but to many it seemed not too matter. And in some ways, that is what Trump is about. It’s not really what he says. It’s a feeling of his supporters that in this world of sleazy and elitist politicians, here is one guy on their side.
Much of what he did say were things he has said before.
He repeated his racist slur about Elizabeth Warren, calling her Pocahontas.
Remember when Trump talked about American carnage at the 2016 GOP convention? He was at it again, talking about how horrible some of the nation’s cities are. This from a man who at least in theory has now had three years to do something about that.
And then there were a series of remarkable assertions that skewed – to say the least – reality.
One, naturally, was that “illegal aliens” were running wild committing crimes when every conceivable study suggests immigrants of all kinds commit fewer crimes than native Americans.
And then we came to “the wall.” The president said it was being built and Mexico was paying for it.
Now, Trump’s infamous wall across the entire border is not being built. And of more importance, the president has been taking money from the Defense Department to pay for it. That would be the U.S Defense Department, not the Mexican army.
Then there was health care. The president talked about how Republicans care so much about protecting those with pre-existing conditions from insurance company discrimination.
That provision is a key part of Obamacare, which Trump wants to repeal.
None of this matters to those who simply feel a connection to the president.
Another man at the bar told me he was feeling “as good as can be” because his “friend” was on TV.
When it ended and the crowd began headed to their cars, some of which were parked blocks away, I heard yet another Trump backer say this was one of the greatest evenings of his life.
I have no doubt these feelings are genuine. But here’s the problem.
The MAGA hats, the shirts picturing the president as Rambo and other over-the-top paraphernalia aside, Trump’s poll ratings remain at a ceiling of 45 percent.
There is an obvious reason for that.
Unlike your more conventional types from both sides of the aisle, Trump does absolutely nothing to expand his base.
And that can be a fatal blunder.