For all those tuning into Donald Trump’s announcement of his presidential candidacy Tuesday night expecting to see a rip-roaring, fired-up Trump tearing into Joe Biden, trashing the fake news, and just generally riling up the crowd, you were disappointed. Trump was unusually calm, almost somber even, and spoke mostly in a slightly-hoarse monotone. While he certainly delivered some of his red meat lines, he rarely went into his trademark ranting mode and stayed away from hot topics like the 2020 election, Crooked Hillary, and January 6. The words “Russia collusion” never came out of his mouth.
Even the actual major announcement was delivered with a surprising lack of excitement, at least by Trump’s standards:
THERE IT IS!
TRUMP: "In order to make America great and glorious again, I am tonight announcing my candidacy for president of the United States!" pic.twitter.com/BaULct2DcP
— Townhall.com (@townhallcom) November 16, 2022
Remember, that was the Big Moment of the night. Yet, it didn’t feel that big.
One can assume he’s doing it to appear more “leaderly,” more of a statesman, more presidential. Will it work? For me, frankly I thought it was a snoozefest. Friends who were all excited to watch texted me halfway through saying they’d left it on in the background to do laundry. Fox News, who I reported Tuesday is no longer a reliable friend of the 45th president, didn’t even stick around till the end:
— The Hill (@thehill) November 16, 2022
At one point when the crowd started to chant, “drain the swamp, drain the swamp!” Trump just smiled, didn’t encourage them, and quickly went back to his speechifying.
If you’ve ever watched or been to a Trump rally, you know that those are an entirely different affair. There are rowdy fans with their trademark red MAGA hats, music, famous guests, and most of all, Trump’s surprisingly brilliant sense of humor. His rallies feel like festivals as much as they do political events.
Obviously, this was not a rally; the president was delivering prepared remarks, and he was attempting to address serious matters. Nevertheless, he appeared less vibrant than we’re used to, there was very little humor, and I sensed that the crowd wanted more and was just waiting to explode with applause and cheers at one of his famous one-liners. Didn’t happen.
What’s the end game here? He clearly wasn’t trying to thrill his die-hard supporters, and it’s probable that many of them were deflated by the speech. But if he’s trying to convince the Washington Post crowd that he’s a serious leader, that attempt will never work:
WaPo is sooooooooo mad right now. pic.twitter.com/ymsq7WjLtC
— The Redheaded libertarian (@TRHLofficial) November 16, 2022
The substance of the speech was fine, although meandering. First, he delivered a defense of all he accomplished while he was president (which was a lot), then he turned his attention to criticizing Biden, which he did but—again—with a surprising lack of passion. Biden’s attacks on Trump have been much more savage than that as of late.
To be fair, The Donald did bring it home a little at the end with his familiar refrain, “We will make America strong again. We will make America proud again. We will make America safe again. We will make America glorious again. And we will make America great again.” The crowd finally got a chance to cheer, and for a moment it almost seemed like there was excitement in the room.
But let’s be real, some of his press conferences were more exciting than this.
I can guess at his motivation—perhaps he was trying to reach out to more than just his MAGA crowd. But those that hate him, and there are many, will not be swayed in the slightest by this new, calmer Donald. Maybe he was simply tired—after all, he just hosted his daughter’s wedding on Saturday, and the midterms which he was heavily involved in were just last week.
While I have strongly supported Trump in the past and am still extremely grateful for all that he was able to accomplish during his term (and am truthfully still nostalgic for those hope-filled days), I was hoping for more from this speech. It won’t deliver a “thrill up the leg” to his base, and it won’t change a single opinion on the other side.
The conventional wisdom is that rallies don’t move the needle with voters. My friend Jeff Charles thought the speech struck just the right tone, but it left me wanting. I think Trump would be better offer sticking to his rallies than delivering yawners like this.
You can see the full announcement here: