Trump abandons talk of 'American carnage' for unbridled optimism: ANALYSIS

The president cast himself -- and the nation -- as triumphant.

February 05, 2020, 5:01 AM

Forget “American carnage.” It’s now a “blue-collar boom.”

President Donald Trump on Tuesday declared the “great American comeback” in a 78-minute State of the Union address to the nation in which he claimed credit for a soaring economy, paid homage to conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh, and gave a nod to the struggles of military families and African Americans.

PHOTO: President Donald Trump delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress in the House Chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020, as Vice President Mike Pence and Speaker Nancy Pelosi look on.
President Donald Trump delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress in the House Chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020, as Vice President Mike Pence and Speaker Nancy Pelosi look on.
Leah Millis/Pool via AP

The speech echoed a campaign rally, producing raucous cheers from his supporters and chants of “Four more years” inside the House chamber.

It also proved so irksome to Democrats that two -- Reps. Tim Ryan of Ohio and Bill Pascrell of New Jersey -- walked out, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi – whose outstretched hand Trump appeared to ignore upon entering the chamber -- ripped up his speech behind him when he was done.

“It was such a dirty speech,” Pelosi told reporters upon leaving Tuesday night, later tweeting that Trump’s speech amounted to a “manifesto of mistruths” that should be a “call to action” to voters.

The night was a strong indication of the bitter 2020 election campaign ahead, and challenged Democratic predictions on where they thought they’d be by now.

“By the time we get to 2020, Donald Trump may not be president. In fact, he may not even be a free person,” Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Elizabeth Warren told a crowd in Iowa almost exactly a year ago in February 2019.

But since then, Trump has claimed victory in the Russia investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller because it didn’t result in a legal case against him. (Mueller wrote that his team was “unable” to reach a judgment on whether the president obstructed justice, saying that, “Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”)

And while Trump addressed the nation as one of only three presidents to be impeached by the House, he is now on the cusp of an acquittal by the Republican-controlled Senate. A final impeachment vote was planned Wednesday, and it was considered highly unlikely Democrats would reach the two-thirds threshold to remove him from office.

On Tuesday, Sen. Susan Collins, a Maine Republican who was considered a possible swing vote on impeachment, announced she wouldn’t vote to remove the president despite believing he was “wrong” to ask Ukraine’s president to investigate a political rival.

PHOTO: President Donald Trump turns after handing copies of his speech to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Vice President Mike Pence as he delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Feb. 4, 2020.
President Donald Trump turns after handing copies of his speech to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Mike Pence as he delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Feb. 4, 2020.
J. Scott Applewhite/AP

The president’s reelection campaign and the Republican National Committee have been able to turn the threat of Democratic-led investigations into Trump into donations for his reelection. The two organizations entered 2020 with a combined $195 million of cash on hand, with plans to solicit more donations during Trump’s speech.

According to the ABC News/Washington Post poll, Trump’s career average approval as president -- 39% -- is the lowest on record at this point in office for any president dating back some 75 years.

But bolstered by the strong economy, his most recent approval rating is 44% -- up 6 percentage points since last October, around the same time the House impeachment inquiry was getting under way.

On Tuesday, Trump cast himself -- and the nation -- as triumphant.

"This is a blue-collar boom," he declared. His comments were in sharp contrast to his 2017 inaugural “American carnage” speech in which he described “mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities” and “rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones."

Trump also omitted gains in the economy under President Barack Obama’s watch. During Obama's eight years in office, unemployment rate fell from 10 percent to 4.7 percent as the nation emerged from a recession.

“If we hadn't reversed the failed economic policies of the previous administration, the world would not now be witnessing this great economic success,” he later said.

In addition, while the stock market is up and wages are growing in a record-setting economic expansion, one measurement of economic health -- real GDP -- is growing at a rate slower than it was two years ago, and remains short of what Trump promised back when he was on the campaign trail.

“In just three short years, we have shattered the mentality of American decline and we have rejected the downsizing of Americans' destiny. We have totally rejected the downsizing,” he said in Tuesday night's address.

PHOTO: President Donald Trump delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020, as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., left, watches.
President Donald Trump delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020, as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., left, watches.
Doug Mills/The New York Times via AP, Pool

Former vice president and Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden slammed Trump’s speech as a "misleading litany of half-truths, no-context statistics, and outright lies," and insisted that Trump is "still more obsessed with erasing the progress of the Obama-Biden administration than leading the American people responsibly."

Warren opted not to attend the speech.

“Let's be clear on where we stand right now,” she told reporters earlier in the day. “The Republicans in the Senate have locked arms to protect an out-of-control president.”

ABC News producers' Will Steakin, John Parkinson John Verhovek, Sasha Pezenik, Sarah Kolinovsky and Taylor Dunn contributed to this report.

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