Still basking in the glow of a big Georgia special election victory for the GOP, President Trump pushed aside the controversies that have hamstrung his administration in the past month and returned to the stage most comfortable to him — the campaign trail.
"All we do is win, win, win!" he told the crowd gathered in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Wednesday night. It was classic campaign Trump throughout his hour-plus stemwinder, decrying the "phony witch hunts going against me," hitting the "dishonest media," doubling down on his pledge to build a border wall and reliving his November victory.
At the outset, Trump boasted about how Republicans had been counted out in the Tuesday contest in Georgia's 6th Congressional District, framed as a referendum on his agenda. But in the end, GOP nominee Karen Handel ended up topping Democrat Jon Ossoff, and in South Carolina, Republican Ralph Norman rolled to a closer-than-expected finish in another special election.
"The truth is people love us, all of us. They love us. [Democrats] haven't figured it out yet," Trump said.
It was the president's fifth campaign rally since he was inaugurated in January. The frequent returns to the campaign trail are a huge deviation from past presidents, but they give Trump a chance to recharge and connect with his supporters. All of his rallies have been sponsored by his re-election committee.
Trump's speech began remarkably on-message and upbeat, without some of the dark imagery painting a sullen country he is known to use.
"History is written by the dreamers, not the doubters," he told the crowd, urging them to "set aside the cynics and the critics." Their presence there tonight, Trump said, was evidence that the country was "more unified than ever before."
"All you want is a government that shows you the same respect and loyalty in return," the president said. "You believe that America must protect and defend its own citizens. With that conviction, deep in your hearts, you showed up on Election Day and voted to put America first."
On the health care bill that Senate Republicans are set to unveil on Thursday, Trump said he hoped they "surprise you with a good plan," but one with "heart." And, he laughed, "add some money to it!"
He began to acknowledge he would like Democratic support in the effort to repeal and replace former President Barack Obama's signature achievement. "If we had even a little Democratic support, just a little, like a couple of votes, you'd have everything," Trump said.
But then he began bashing the opposing party, quipping that "I am making it a little bit hard to get their support, but who cares?"
And from then on, it was freewheeling Trump as he jumped from topic to topic, strayed off message, made some head-scratching remarks and revisited some old campaign trail favorites.
In talking about his cadre of advisers, he boasted about their financial pedigrees — even though he had slammed Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail for being too close to those same interests.
"We have Gary Cohn, who is the president of Goldman Sachs. He's the president of Goldman Sachs. He had to pay $200 million in taxes to take the job, right? So, somebody said, 'Why did you appoint a rich person to be in charge of the economy?' I said, 'Because that's the kind of thinking we want,' " Trump said, adding that Cohn and other multimillionaires in his Cabinet had to "give up a lot" in taking administration jobs, going from "massive paydays to peanuts."
"And I love all people, rich or poor," the president continued. "But, in those particular positions, I just don't want a poor person, does that make sense?"
He also slighted wind power as a reliable energy source — "I don't want to just hope the wind blows to light up your homes" — even though Iowa is the highest producer of wind energy in the U.S., accounting for almost a third of its energy production.
Trump also said he will soon propose a new immigration rule that anyone seeking to come to the U.S. has to be able to financially support themselves and not use welfare resources for five years. However, as The Hill noted, that law already exists. It was passed in 1996 under President Bill Clinton.