LOWELL, Massachusetts — Donald Trump may have been only 13 miles away from where Bill Clinton was campaigning Monday afternoon, but the former president seemed far from the GOP front-runner’s mind when he took the stage Monday night.
While Trump spent the morning on CNN hitting Clinton for the Monica Lewinsky scandal and reminding viewers of the impeachment trial he endured, on the stump he was mum about Bill, and used just a few previously stated attack lines on Hillary Clinton.
“Let’s say Hillary’s president,” he mused at one point. “Uh oh. Four more years of Obama, that’s what you call it!” Minutes later he again assured the crowd that four more years of Obama is “what you’re getting with Hillary.” It almost seemed as though Trump was workshopping the best label with which to tag her — in the same way he successfully branded Jeb as “low energy,” he could use a golden arrow of attack against Clinton.
Despite mentioning Obama several times — and congratulating one protester for saying what he couldn’t when the man called out “Obama sucks” — Trump didn’t elaborate on his prior promise to overturn the president’s pending executive order on gun control. Whereas on Saturday he was forceful in his stance against gun control and for the Second Amendment, Monday’s rally brought few mentions of the issue and silence about Obama’s plans.
However, the night was punctuated by protesters: More than half a dozen interrupted his nearly hour-long remarks. Attendees were instructed ahead of the event to not harm the protesters, an announcement that is becoming more frequent at the start of Trump’s events.
Audience members followed those rules as far as could be seen, cheering “Trump” and “U-S-A” until the interrupters were escorted out by event security and law enforcement. Something else that was added to Monday’s pre-program: A video that began with footage of Ivanka Trump announcing her father on the day he declared his candidacy, interspersed with a montage of Fox News personalities talking about Trump, and finishing with him promising to make America great. Throughout, photos of Trump and his family appeared over the voices on the video.
Another topic on which Trump was silent at Monday night’s event was his new ad buys, set to hit New Hampshire and Iowa airwaves in coming days. The ads made headlines both as Trump’s first foray into his own political TV ads, as well as for a fact check of footage that purported to show the Mexican border but actually was of the Moroccan border with Spanish enclaves. Trump’s campaign manager colorfully told NBC that “no sh—“ the footage wasn’t of Mexico, adding that the footage use was intentional to show what could happen to our country if we leave our border as is.
Trump also didn’t have many attacks for his rivals in a speech that was mostly about Iran, foreign policy, Congress’ budget negotiations, and Trump’s propensity to talk about polls — which he said he won’t do if he’s ever in second place. He revived an attack on Jeb Bush — claiming his rival put his smaller-than-Trump’s crowds to sleep the last time the two converged in nearby New Hampshire towns — and reminded crowds of when Bernie Sanders’ microphone was overtaken by Black Lives Matter protesters. That won’t happen with him, Trump assured a cheering crowd of thousands that packed the arena despite the 18 degrees and windy night outside.
Trump did attack Ted Cruz again for co–opting his immigration plan, noting that you can’t just build a wall — and that he’d build it best. In his exact words, “I build good.”
The business mogul knew his audience, as usual. He picked a man out of the crowd who was wearing a Trump/Tom Brady t-shirt that featured a picture of the candidate and NFL quarterback on the back and their names on the front.
“Tom Brady injured is still better than anybody else,” Trump said to a crowd that was no-doubt fired up about their team’s post-season prospects. He also mentioned the Boston Marathon, calling it one of the “saddest things I’ve ever seen.” The crowd responded with shouts of “Boston strong.”
And while he heaped love on Tom Brady, John Kerry wasn’t so lucky. Trump told the Massachusetts crowd that for Kerry’s poor deal-making skills “I have to blame you” as “he comes from your parts … Hey New Hampshire, let’s blame Massachusetts,” he joked.