MANCHESTER, New Hampshire — President Donald Trump announced Thursday evening that his re-election campaign rally at the SNHU Arena broke the stadium’s previous attendance record, held by rock star Elton John.
The SNHU Arena holds nearly 12,000 people, and was nearly filled to capacity when the U.S. Secret Service closed the doors. Thousands more people watched the president’s speech on giant television screens outside the arena.
Trump tweeted news about the attendance record shortly after the event was over. He spoke for nearly two hours.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 16, 2019
There were several hundred left-wing protesters, too, some of whom formed a gauntlet that forced Trump supporters to walk past crowds of people shouting “Shame!” — a potentially dangerous situation, though there was no violence. Several “peacemakers” were visible in orange jerseys, ostensibly to prevent clashes between the two sides.
Inside the arena, President Trump emerged to an ear-splitting, raucous welcome that lasted several minutes.
Trump focused on listing the achievements of his administration, both for New Hampshire and for the country as a whole. “The United States right now has the hottest economy anywhere in the world,” he said. “America is working again, America is winning again, and America is respected again — respected like never before.”
The president joked that voters had “no choice” but to vote for him because if they did not, the financial markets would crash and the economy would suffer. “Whether you love me or hate me, you gotta vote for me,” Trump said.
He touted the drop in the unemployment rate in New Hampshire, noting that it was the lowest in 31 years, and predicting that it would soon be the lowest in history. Before that, he said, New Hampshire was “like central casting for the closing of factories.” Now, however, jobs had returned to the state. He also noted his administration’s progress in fighting the opioid crisis, which had been a focus of his campaign in the Granite State in 2016.
Trump also hit Democrats over their radical proposals on energy. “We ended the last administration’s cruel war on American energy … the United States is now the number one producer of oil and natural gas in the world,” he said. He also noted: “Every leading Democrat has promised to abolish the coal, oil, and natural gas that are fueling our economic boom.” He added that “Every Democrat also wants to give illegal aliens free welfare,” noted that “every Democrat also supports late-term abortion,” and warned that Democrats would be running on “socialism” in 2020.
A vote for Democrats, he said, was “a vote for socialism and a vote for the desrutction of the American dream.”
The president also hit back at criticism by the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal over his policy of confronting China over trade. “They understand nothing about trade or business — nothing,” he said of the Journal.
Trump also went through the list of Democratic contenders, commenting on their prospects. “Pocahontas [Elizabeth Warren] is rising … Kamala is falling … but I don’t know, Sleepy Joe [Biden] may be able to limp his way across the finish line.”
Democrat Hillary Clinton won the state in 2016, but Trump came close, recalling that he held his second-to-last rally of the campaign there, before flying to Michigan for a rally after midnight on Election Day.
He poked fun at Biden over a report that allies were encouraging him to make fewer appearances to minimize the chance of gaffes.
As he has done at other rallies, Trump asked the crowd to choose between his 2016 slogan, “Make America Great Again” — “the greatest slogan in the history of politics” — and his new slogan, “Keep America Great.” (The latter won.)
By far, the loudest applause lines of the night were for Trump’s defenses of the Second Amendment. “There is a mental illness problem that has to be dealt with. It’s not the gun that pulls the trigger, it’s the person holding it,” he said.
Trump also criticized Democrats who have used the term “Nazi” to attack his administration, particularly on the issue of mass shootings.
“They use the term Nazi — this was a term, you couldn’t even use it — now they use it on a regular basis,” he said. “They accuse our border agents of running concentration camps — when they do an incredible job,” he added, referring to recent comments by first-term “democratic socialist” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
The rally was largely peaceful, though there were two scuffles in the upper deck. As one man was ejected by law enforcement, Trump quipped: “That guy’s got a serious weight problem. Go home, start exercising. … He’s got a bigger problem than I do.”
The audience appeared to enjoy the event. One local man — who would not give his name — told Breitbart News that he hoped Trump would win the state in 2020, though “we got a lot of loony liberals comin’ up from Mass.”
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He earned an A.B. in Social Studies and Environmental Science and Public Policy from Harvard College, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.