This report follows an earlier report on the “opening acts” at the 19 October 2018, Mesa, Arizona, MAGA rally. The event started after a significant number of people were in the hanger, but while people were still being admitted both into the hanger and then into the overflow viewing area. The organization and execution of the event reflected great professionalism and experience. This set the stage for a successful appearance by the President and Senate candidate Martha McSally, both of whose performances are worth noting. We do not have a Texas-size population, but Arizona punches way above its weight.
Staging: Yuge congratulations to the City of Mesa, the Donald J. Trump MAGA event coordinators, and especially the Mesa Police Department! This event was at least double the size of the 2017 Phoenix rally and had none of the leftist mob drama. To be fair, the choice of terrain favored law enforcement, and discouraged significant trouble, before or after the event. Instead of urban canyons, through which small groups could maneuver and strike, the venue was at the edge of a former Air Force airfield, with open desert on its border.
The event was in the International Air Response hanger. This company uses a C-130 aircraft for everything from wildfire suppression to movie stunt support. They are to be commended for their willingness to provide the venue. The plane in the satellite map below was moved, for obvious reasons. The dotted route was where the line formed before it folded back on the other side of the street. “S. Taxiway” served as the call-forward marshaling route, described below.
The addition of a major beltway (Loop 202) several years ago, passing near the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Regional Airport, made access easy from anywhere in the state. The Mesa Police reported event parking was full by 3:50. Between the internal hanger crowd, and an external overflow crowd, watching a big screen, the Mesa Police Department estimated the crowd at 40,000! Mesa PD could confidently offer that estimate because of the metered clearance process used to move people through the Secret Service screening point.
Look above at the base of the tower in the photograph. You see a group of people to the right of the tower, then a gap before the portable toilets. That group was called forward from the line, bending out onto the sidewalk from which the picture is taken. They are about 35 deep and 15 wide, by my counts. I believe this was intended as a 500 person increment measure. Further to the left, is a group held ready, to move to the screening point. So, 1,500 people were in the chute for entry at any given time. Hence the confident estimate by the police.
As the crowd gathered, before screening started, the President and Congresswoman McSally, in her status as a member of the Arizona Congressional delegation, and a member of the House Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee, held a round table discussion at Luke Air Force Base with local military and political leaders, as well as senior representatives of defense industries in Arizona. In that context, the President was able to point out the huge foreign military sales contract with Saudi Arabia, saying he did not want to jeopardize 600,000 American jobs by canceling the contract. He also pointed out that Saudi Arabia is an important counterbalance to Iran, so action must be taken, but the situation is not simple. President Trump does very well with this format, appearing to pull back the curtain on top-level government discussions.
President Trump’s performance: A friend who attended the Mesa rally commented that President Trump has become a much better public speaker, with fuller, more flowing phrases. At the same time, he was about 20 minutes briefer than at the 2017 Phoenix rally. Most of the audience had been standing on concrete for over five hours, first in line and then in the hanger, before the President strode onto the podium, at 6:45 PM, shown below. He has become more disciplined yet remained loose, generating more sustained energy with the crowd. He spoke for just under an hour, including Martha McSally’s interlude.
The backdrop to the podium is always a set of risers with selected supporters and local officials, some of whom the President will point out and praise (see 14:26 on the rally video at the bottom). I noticed as the President departed, he looked at Sheriff Joe Arpaio and waved. The controversial former state politician was shown the respect by the state party, and the Trump campaign organization, to seat him in the risers. They just put him well out of the frame, away from the crowd’s center of focus, and he was not named. The banners to each side of the American flag are a constant: “Promises Made, Promises Kept.”
Reviewing other rallies in this campaign reveals that President Trump makes appeals to women, African-Americans, and Hispanics, saying their issues are his: security and jobs. In this western state swing, he invokes the pioneer women and says their toughness is reflected in the women of the audience, adding in Arizona “you are all tough, and beautiful.” That addition let him throw a rhetorical punch at the media in the risers facing him, across the red sea of Trump supporters: “they’ll just say I talked about your looks.”
President Trump’s messages: The underlying message of the President, since his election, to which his cabinet officials will attest, is “Promises Made, Promises Kept.” This is what is uniquely virtuous in this Presidency. Campaign promises are not mere puffery. Voters have a right to get what you told them they would get. President Trump recited promises he has kept, pointing out he was keeping his word to the voters. He remarked as he has before, that other presidents have broken their word to the voters, and been punished at the ballot box. This is why he acknowledged that the wall is not done, then points out how much has been done, then says it could be done in a year if Congress will just fund it fully.
President Trump, as in the other rallies, starting in Montana, repeatedly pointed out the start date of early voting in the state. He asked everyone to turn in their ballot and vote Republican. He then pointed out Arizona Republicans, in the risers, who he praised: Representative Debbie Lesko, Congressman Andy Biggs, Congressman Dave Schweikert, and Governor Doug Ducey. Then the President introduced Martha McSally as a “patriot,” “tough,” and someone who has “always been there for me.”
After reinforcing his support for Martha McSally, as she stepped away from the microphone, he tied together a series of other familiar remarks. These remarks, on security, jobs, and the Supreme Court, all fed into a third message, the emergent midterm election campaign theme:
Jobs, not mobs.
Whether pointing out the extremism of national Democratic Party leaders, or the terrible treatment of Judge Kavanaugh, or the “migrant caravan” (which Laura Ingraham has now branded the “mobile mob”), and the lawlessness of our broken immigration system, the President was building the case that a vote for any Democrat is a vote for mobs. Whether pointing out the record low unemployment for everyone, especially people Democrats claim to represent, or improved military spending and strength, or removing job-killing regulations, the President was building the case that a vote for any Republican is a vote for jobs. So, vote for jobs, not mobs.
As I reviewed videos and reporting around this rally, I found John Hinderaker, at PowerLine, had posted video and radio ads being run in Minnesota. These ads, produced by a group called Protect Minnesota, expressly say “jobs not mobs.” John Hinderaker concludes:
I think this approach is highly effective; it should cause the Democrats to squeal and thus generate earned media. I am not sure whether it is being echoed in other states with close midterm races, but I hope so!
Congresswoman McSally’s remarks: As President Trump introduced her, Martha McSally walked briskly to the lectern, and they kissed on the cheek. She thanked the President for coming to Arizona, and led off with “I just wanted you to know, we are not crazy here, unlike what my opponent says, we are not a meth lab of democracy.” This is the hook for her argument against Kyrsten Sinema as an extremist, posing as a moderate, who has a history, caught on video, of bad-mouthing Arizona while out of state. She then said:
“America is back, and Arizona is back, thanks to the leadership of President Trump, and Doug Ducey, and the Republican Senate and House.”
McSally cited jobs, rebuilding the military, and Justice Kavanaugh as evidence. She then said there was so much more to do, and made the case for keeping and growing the Senate and House majorities. From there, she went into a point-by-point set of contrasts between her support and Sinema’s opposition to all the things about which the audience cared. I especially liked her ad lib on her scripted remark:
“I was shooting at the Taliban, and Sinema said it was alright for Americans to join the Taliban.”
[Audience Booing] “What the hell?!”
This nicely makes the point: Sinema has truly radical roots, which she has recently, skillfully dyed a moderate shade. All the soft media treatment cannot make that “pink tutu” go away. Sure enough, “I was wearing a flight suit, and she was wearing a [audience joins in] pink tutu.” From here McSally moved to the issue she understands the MAGA voters of Arizona care most about: border security.
“President Trump, it has been an honor to be leading in the House to make sure we build the wall.”
[Audience chant: Build the Wall] “Build the wall. Exactly. We have to do it. We gotta close these crazy loopholes…”
After pointing out that Sinema voted to protect sanctuary cities, McSally named an audience member, whose son, Brandon Mendoza, a sergeant in the Mesa Police Department, was killed by an illegal alien driving the wrong way.
Mendoza was killed as he drove home from a shift early Monday and was involved in a head-on collision with another driver near U.S. 60 and Interstate 10. Police said the other driver, who also died in the crash, was likely impaired and had been driving the wrong way for more than 30 miles. [emphasis added]
The illegal alien had been in this country for over two decades since he was convicted of several offenses in Colorado but never deported. The slain officer’s mother wrote in outrage to President Obama but got no action and no justice. McSally closed on the note that there was so much at stake, and asked for Arizonans’ votes.
One problem: McSally twice used the first name of the fallen officer, and twice got it wrong, saying “Brian” instead of “Brandon.” This, despite having met the fallen officer’s mother previously and posting about it on her Congressional webpage. [emphasis added]
Also in attendance was Arizonan Mary Ann Mendoza, the mother of fallen Sgt. Police Officer Brandon Mendoza, who had served 13 years with the Mesa Police Department when he was killed in a head-on collision by a highly intoxicated illegal immigrant with multiple criminal convictions. Ms. Mendoza shared her son’s story and spoke on behalf of the scores of victims nationwide who were killed because of unenforced immigration laws.
A second problem: McSally did nothing to burn her bridges back to the McCain/Flake position. The audience, and the voters she must still sway, have been badly burnt by their last two Republican senators, and the “build the wall” phrase from her invokes McCain saying the same thing when he needed to say it to get reelected. While the President and McSally kissed on the cheek before and after, she said not one word of endorsement for 2020, unlike Ambassador Nikki Haley. This was a big miss. McSally could have brought the house down and sewn up the election with this close:
There is so much at stake, we have so much more to do, so I ask for your vote, and if you elect me, I promise to work every day, for the next six years, with President Trump, to Keep Arizona Great!
Summary assessment: The President is lending his full weight everywhere his team advises him there is a chance to win. This is a continuation of his presidential campaign strategy. The team gave him private polling and he made the calls on where to go. He understands which states and which districts are in play, as he did in 2016. He keeps getting better at his campaign rally performance, and the support team has the site preparation mastered. What is left is the performance of the local candidates.
Martha McSally has the burden of the last two Arizona Republican Senators. Candidate Donald Trump endorsed John McCain in his primary, over Kelli Ward, only to be serially betrayed, culminating in the infamous thumb pointing on the Senate floor, marking a betrayal of 6 years of GOP promises to repeal Obamacare. Martha McSally has shown real integrity and courage in uniform, fighting the chain of command all the way into federal court to uphold the Constitution. Now, as a politician, she seems to be keeping her head down, trying to keep the “Never Trump” and “MAGA” voters both on her side.
On the other hand, McSally is hitting her Democratic opponent as hard as her Republican primary challenger, which is a refreshing change. On that evidence, she is fighting to win. I believe it will be enough to win. I think it will be close, although the Democrats may yet help elect Senator Martha McSally by near double digits.
A special note: for once, there was straight reporting by the Arizona Republic, whose article on the Mesa MAGA rally I highly recommend.