Politics & Policy

Trump’s Pitch Hinges on Plea for Trust in Michigan

Trump in Birch Run, Mich., August 11, 2015. (Bill Pugliano/Getty)

Birch Run, Mich. — Over the past few days, Donald Trump’s advisers have promised a more serious campaign structure and detailed policy plans.

But in a speech here Tuesday at the Genesee and Saginaw Republican parties’ Lincoln Day event, Trump didn’t offer any specifics. Instead, he stuck to a simple message: “Trust me.”

“I think there has to be a trust,” Trump told reporters before his speech, when asked about the lack of detailed policy plans. “There actually does have to be a trust. If you don’t trust you’re not gonna do very well.”

People appear willing to do just that. For all the naysaying about Trump, he has yet to see a sustained drop in the polls. Despite his lack of detailed policy proposals, many Republican-primary voters seem ready to take Trump at his word. The folks who packed the Birch Run Expo Hall here Tuesday night were Trump fans. The event may have been organized as a fundraiser for the local Republican parties, but it ended up as an unofficial rally for the man who relentlessly insists he will “make America great again.” Even the Big Boy burger joint around the corner had posted a “Welcome Donald Trump” sign.

With every brazen claim Trump made, the crowd cheered, yelled, stomped its feet, and chanted his name.

With every brazen claim Trump made, the crowd cheered, yelled, stomped its feet, and chanted his name.

The U.S. would build a wall to block off the southern border, and Mexico, Trump told reporters, would happily pay for it.

The American hostages whose freedom was not secured as part of the Iran nuclear deal?  “I mean, literally in two minutes I would’ve had them out,” Trump said.

Vladimir Putin, Trump said, “I would get along with very well.”

Nearly every line in his speech was met with applause. At the first mention of “President Trump,” the audience rose from its seats and went wild.

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One man, Jason (he declined to give his last name), wore a “Veteran for Trump” T-shirt and told National Review before the speech that he thought Trump would “work good for veterans.” Asked how he had come to that conclusion, Jason said it was “because we’ve got people in the White House and the Senate . . . that aren’t doing anything for veterans, so, might as well get somebody in there with fresh blood that’s gonna do something for them.” He noted that Trump is “still a private individual, so he’s gotta prove himself,” but he seemed confident that the businessman would do just that.

What’s more, Jason was more than willing to give Trump the benefit of the doubt on his comment about McCain’s not being “a war hero,” describing it as “a dig” meant specifically for McCain.

“We all say things we don’t mean sometimes,” he said.

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Another attendee, Henry Hatter, said he was backing Trump because “I want the truth. You don’t have to soft-pedal me.” The other candidates, he said, obscure what they feel.

Trump promised reporters that they were “gonna see lots of plans,” but he seemed to simultaneously shrug off the usefulness of the wonkish proposals a typical campaign would put out.

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“In business you have to be flexible. There’s gotta be flexibility,” Trump told reporters. “I recently bought something, not so recently, but Doral, in Miami. Everybody wanted it. If I would’ve sat down and said, ‘Here’s a twelve-point plan in order to get Doral’ — I didn’t do that. I went in and punched and punched and beat the hell out of people, and I ended up getting it. Everybody wanted it. All of the smart money wanted it.”

In that regard, Trump’s persona as an expert negotiator appears to let him get away with positions for which other Republican candidates would be pilloried.

#related#“You gotta be able to get along, you gotta make deals,” Trump said in the speech, touting his past relationship with Democratic senator Chuck Schumer. Other Republicans, such as Ted Cruz, draw huge applause from Republican crowds for railing against the very idea of deal-making.

Pundits and reporters have speculated that Trump’s numbers will start to fade when people realize he does not have a substantive grasp of the issues. But Tuesday night’s event suggested that people are willing to give him the benefit of the doubt — if only because he hasn’t already let them down in the way they feel politicians in Washington have. He may make bold claims, but people are willing to accept them as true . . . at least for now.

There was one claim in the speech about which no one needed any convincing.

“I am really enjoying what I’m doing,” Trump told the crowd. He clearly meant it.

— Alexis Levinson is a senior political reporter for National Review.

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