That was the context for Trump’s State of the Union, and he did everything he needed to do to use it to his advantage. Most Democrats in the audience appeared to hate the speech, but they weren’t the intended audience. Republicans and independents were, and I suspect they received it warmly.
As he has in prior appearances before Congress, Trump spoke slowly and methodically, relying on a teleprompter. Unlike his raucous and inflammatory rallies before his most fervent supporters, the tone was subdued and, frankly, as presidential as Trump can manage. For long stretches during the first half hour, it sounded like a slightly draggy and less charming version of Ronald Reagan’s stump speech during his “Morning in America” re-election campaign in 1984. The “American carnage” Trump surveyed in his inaugural address three years ago has been replaced by a “blue-collar boom,” yielding a “great American comeback.”
The litany of facts and figures the president cited to prove his accomplishments were a mixed bag. Some were accurate, others were exaggerated, and some were outright deceptive or false. But given the undeniable strength of the economy, lots of voters are bound to do what they always do and give the president credit even when he doesn’t deserve it. Unless the economy tanks quickly and sharply over the next six months, this will be a strong message to put before voters.