Presumptive Republican nominee throws out the teleprompter to deliver a vintage speech high in bombast and bluster in Virginia
Donald Trump’s general election pivot didn’t last very long.
After giving two speeches with teleprompters this week, Trump returned to his unscripted style in a rally in Richmond, Virginia on Friday. In a barely one-third-full arena, he repeatedly called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas”, attacked former rival Jeb Bush and complained “New York City is going with the Norwegian form of education”.
After a week where Trump strained to appear more presidential, it all went out the window in a vintage performance, which even featured a handful of protesters being arrested outside the event.
Trump has been mired in controversy after asserting that the federal judge presiding over a lawsuit against him is biased because he is “Mexican”. The comments have been called racist by many in his own party, including House speaker Paul Ryan and led to Illinois senator Mark Kirk withdrawing his endorsement of his party’s nominee.
While Trump has been trying downplay his comments, saying earlier on Friday “freedom of any kind means no one should be judged by their race or their color or the color of their skin”, he reopened the controversy by repeatedly calling Warren “Pocahontas” in an attempt to insult her for saying that she has Native American heritage. The epithet was accompanied by Indian war whoops from the crowd. Several minutes afterwards, Trump then insisted he was “the least racist person”.
The event, the first rally that he has held since the primary campaign ended, was textbook Trump. He spent the first five minutes bragging about his vineyard in the Old Dominion and then went on to deliver a meandering account of his win in the Republican presidential primary. It featured a long detour about his relationship with legendary Indiana basketball coach Bobby Knight as well as his pledge to have a “winners’ evening” at the Republican National Convention filled with star athletes like Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger.
Trump, who has vocally tried to appeal to Bernie Sanders supporters, probably set his efforts back by referring to the Vermont senator yet again as “Crazy Bernie”. He also yet again expressed his confidence that he can win California in a general election, relating a conversation with an unnamed friend who told him “every liberal in Los Angeles will vote for you”.
It marked a contrast from a more restrained Trump, speaking jerkily from a teleprompter at the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s annual summit in Washington earlier in the day. There, Trump tried to appeal to a conservative bloc of voters who have looked skeptically at the New York billionaire. Trump insisted “we will protect and defend Christian Americans” and boasted about how, in the Republican presidential primary, he won with evangelicals and “religion, generally speaking”.
Trump hit key talking points, saying “we want to uphold the sanctity and dignity of life” and asserted “marriage and family is the building block of happiness and success”. He also emphasized the current vacancy on the supreme court, arguing Clinton will “appoint radical judges who will legislate from the bench and the will of the people will mean nothing”.
It was a brief moment where Trump sounded like a traditional presidential candidate rather than the brash bombastic insurgent who has become the Republican presidential nominee. It didn’t last. After all, why be pro-life when you can be anti-Pocahontas?