Trump To Step Back Into Familiar Territory With Rally In Florida

Feb 18, 2017
Originally published on February 18, 2017 8:47 am

President Trump is returning to the campaign trail Saturday night. Yes, it's less than a month into his presidency. But Trump's campaign, which never shut down after he won the election, is organizing the rally in Melbourne, Fla.

It's been a tumultuous start for Trump — from alternative facts about the size of his inauguration crowd, to courts halting his travel ban executive order and this week having to ask his national security adviser to resign. But now Trump is returning to the comfortable embrace of a campaign rally.

Like a rally he held in Minnesota right before the election, Saturday's event will be in an airport hangar. White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said on Friday that although the campaign is paying for it, the rally is more for the American people than for Trump's possible 2020 re-election bid. Speaking to reporters on Air Force One, she said Trump feels he needs to take his message directly to the public.

"I think in large part it's because his message when filtered through — unfortunately people standing in this circle don't always do the best job delivering his message," she said, "and nobody does it better than he does."

Holding an actual campaign rally this early in a presidency is unheard of. But getting the heck out of Washington — that is standard operating procedure.

In February of 1993, Bill Clinton traveled to the studios of WXYZ outside of Detroit for a televised town hall, not unlike the many televised town halls he did as a candidate.

"I wanted to come out of the White House, three weeks to the day after I became president," he said, "because I can see now after only three weeks how easy it is for a president to get out of touch, to be caught up in the trappings of Washington and basically to be told by people that nothing needs to change or you can't change things."

Once presidents take office, says political scientist Brendan Doherty, they "like to do what got them into office in the first place."

Doherty, an associate professor at the U.S. Naval Academy, tracks patterns in presidential travel.

"When presidents are tasked with governing, they often return to their favorite campaign practices," he says. "They like to get in front of the people. They like to speak to the crowd. They like to believe in their persuasive powers and their ability to bring people to their side."

And so it was, a month after taking office in 2001, that President George W. Bush hit the road to make a pitch for his tax cut proposal.

"Part of my job as president as well — I might as well be very up front — is to travel the country ginning up support for this plan," he said at the time.

NPR's Don Gonyea was on that trip and called in to All Things Considered to describe the scene as "almost exactly like the kind of event that Mr. Bush appeared at many times during the campaign."

When President Obama went to Elkhart, Ind., in February of 2009 to put pressure on Congress to pass his stimulus bill, it still had the feel of the campaign, with crowds chanting his name.

Obama signed the stimulus into law a little more than a week later. Unlike his predecessor, Trump won't be using this rally to push for any one piece of legislation. He hasn't sent details for any of his major proposals up to Congress yet.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

President Trump is on the campaign trail again tonight, less than a month into his presidency. He has a rally in Melbourne, Fla., organized by his campaign. NPR's Tamara Keith reports.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: It's been a tumultuous start for President Trump, from alternative facts about the size of his inauguration crowds to courts halting his travel ban executive order and, this week, having to ask his national security adviser to resign. But today, Trump is returning to the comfortable embrace of a campaign rally.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: So I just looked over there. You won't believe this. There are three times more people standing over there than over here. It's crazy.

(CHEERING)

KEITH: That was Trump at a rally in Minnesota right before the election. Tonight's event will similarly be in an airport hangar. White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders says that although the campaign is paying for it, think of it as a rally for the American people, not Trump's possible 2020 re-election bid. Speaking to reporters on Air Force One, she said Trump feels he needs to take his message directly to the American people.

SARAH SANDERS: I think in large part it's because his message, when filtered through - unfortunately, people standing in this circle don't always do the best job delivering his message, and nobody does it better than he does.

KEITH: Holding an actual campaign rally this early in a presidency is unheard of. But getting the heck out of Washington - that is standard operating procedure.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BILL CLINTON: Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

KEITH: In February of 1993, Bill Clinton traveled to the studios of WXYZ outside of Detroit for a televised town hall - not unlike the many televised town halls he did as a candidate.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CLINTON: And I wanted to come out of the White House three weeks to the day after I became president because I can see now after only three weeks how easy it is for a president to get out of touch, to be caught up in the trappings of Washington and basically to be told by people that nothing needs to be changed or you can't change things.

BRENDAN DOHERTY: Presidents, once they get into office, like to do what got them into office in the first place.

KEITH: Brendan Doherty is an associate professor of political science at the U.S. Naval Academy. He tracks patterns in presidential travel.

DOHERTY: When presidents are tasked with governing, they often return to their favorite campaign practices. They like to get out in front of the people. They like to speak to the crowd. They believe in their persuasive powers and their ability to bring people to their side.

KEITH: And so it was a month after taking office in 2001 that President George W. Bush hit the road to make a pitch for his tax cut proposal.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GEORGE W. BUSH: Part of my job as the president as well - I might as well be just very up front - is to travel the country ginning up support for this plan.

KEITH: NPR's Don Gonyea was on that trip and called in to All Things Considered to describe the scene.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: The event here in Omaha - you can hear the band behind me - looks almost exactly like the kind of event that Mr. Bush appeared at many times during the campaign.

KEITH: When President Obama went to Elkhart, Ind., in February of 2009 to put pressure on Congress to pass his stimulus bill, it still had the feel of the campaign.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting) Obama, Obama.

BARACK OBAMA: Thank you.

KEITH: Obama signs the stimulus into law a little more than a week later. Unlike his predecessor, President Trump won't be using this rally to push for any one piece of legislation. He hasn't sent details for any of his major proposals up to Congress yet. Tamara Keith, NPR News, the White House. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.