Pivoting to the general

On the stage in Costa Mesa, CA, last night.
On the stage in Costa Mesa, CA, last night.

 

Much has been made of Donald Trump’s supposed turn toward repositioning himself as serious and sober as he eyes the coming general election.

Trump’s widely panned foreign policy speech on Wednesday, stripped of his usual blustering insults, misogyny, and gratuitous mockery of critics and rivals, was one supposed signal of the New Trump. Veteran Republican operative Paul Manafort was brought on board the campaign for the express purpose of retuning Trump’s image for the big event in the fall.

But apparently the candidate himself is having none of it, instead returning to the cult-of-personality approach to campaigning that has brought him so much success. And doing so with a vengeance.

Here, according to the Los Angeles Times is what that looks like:

Donald Trump put his roughest edges on display Thursday night in Costa Mesa as he opened his California primary campaign with a raw performance highlighting his hard-line views on illegal immigration and torture while trashing an array of rivals.

The front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination surrounded himself onstage with people carrying banners with photos of family members killed by immigrants in the country illegally. …

After weeks of toying with efforts to tone down his rhetoric, Trump’s kickoff rally for California’s June 7 primary was more in line with the initial declaration of his candidacy last June, when he accused Mexico of sending rapists and drug dealers into the United States.

As the crowd’s rapturous reaction attested, it’s still an approach with strong appeal to a large segment of Republican voters in California. But it’s also the kind of politics that has badly damaged the party’s standing in a state where the Latino and Asian population has risen steadily for decades.

Trump also played to fears of terrorism, blasting President Obama for allowing Middle Eastern war refugees into the United States.

“We’re putting them all over the country by the thousands, and we have no idea what the hell is going to happen,” he said.

Trump repeated a story discredited by historians about U.S. Army Gen. John Joseph Pershing dipping 50 bullets in pig blood and using them to execute 49 Muslim terrorists around the time of the Philippine-American War of 1899-1902. The crowd applauded. Trump said Pershing gave the 50th suspect the remaining bullet to show to his people, and it deterred terrorism for 42 years — up from 25 years in an earlier telling.

Trump went on to criticize Republican rival Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas for not embracing the waterboarding of terrorism suspects.

“He’s actually a very weak person, so he didn’t like it,” Trump said. “I’d go many steps further than waterboarding — many, many steps further.”

His torture comments generated another huge burst of cheers.

Given how he campaigns, imagine, if you dare, what his acceptance in speech will sound like in Cleveland this summer. No doubt the “Vichy Republicans” will eat it up.