Donald Trump’s Deep, Mystifying Appeal

It’s not simply that his supporters can’t stand Hillary Clinton. Those inside the Xfinity Arena really like Donald Trump. They are drawn to him. They aren’t going to abandon him.

It took Donald Trump nearly four minutes to enter Xfinity Arena, make his way to the podium and greet thousands of screaming fans congregated on the floor and seated throughout the building.

He strode in, with deliberate patience, smiling and waving, as their cheers rose to an eardrum-numbing decibel.

It was an audacious performance and he hadn’t uttered a word. For the riled and rowdy crowd it got better when he did.

They yearned for the celebrity billionaire to deliver the lines that have made him the the star of this political year. The presidential nominee of the Grand Old Party didn’t let them down.

He performed nearly all of his chart-toppers save his mega-hit of “We’re gonna build a wall,” featuring the criticized and also acclaimed refrain of make Mexico pay for it.

With each verbal lunge at Hillary Clinton, his Democratic opponent, the fans roared approvingly. When he mentioned emails she sent from a private server while Secretary of State, chants of “Lock her up” began and Trump backed off the mic to listen approvingly.

When he strummed the chords of nationalism, they went wild again.

He decried the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) as a bad deal and pledged to renegotiate the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, between Canada, Mexico, and the United States to get better terms for this country.

“There will be retribution” for countries and companies that take jobs out of America, he said. “There will be a price to pay.”

For months now, those on the left side of the political continuum, along with many of the political class, have been trying to crack the rhetorical code running The Donald’s campaign.

It’s not simply that his supporters can’t stand Hillary Clinton. Those inside the Xfinity Arena really like Donald Trump. They are drawn to him. They aren’t going to abandon him.

Back in February, my colleague Dan Catchpole nailed the connection. In an online post about Trump’s sketchy knowledge of the aerospace industry, he said the candidate’s “breezy relationship with facts underscores how much his appeal is about style rather than substance.”

“His tenor, his swagger resonates with frustrated voters who feel economically and socially disempowered and are uncertain and not confident about their future prospects,” Catchpole wrote. “That is a terrible place to be. The frustration and fear it creates is real.”

You could sense that mood among those in the arena. Trump has tapped into it in every speech for the campaign and proved it again Tuesday, in a blue town in a non-battleground state 70 days before the election.

Kellyanne Conway, his campaign manager, reportedly wanted to cancel the Washington stop because of the scant evidence Trump can win the Evergreen State. No Republican has accomplished that feat since Ronald Reagan in 1984.

Trump forged on.

“Why am I here?,” he asked the crowd rhetorically. “We’re going to win it, that’s why I’m here. This is going to be your victory, it is going to be your victory, it is going to be your victory.”

Political reporter Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; Twitter: @dospueblos

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