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Trump Rallies Supporters Amid Chaotic Week in Washington


President Donald Trump speaks during a rally at the Covelli Centre in Youngstown, Ohio, July 25, 2017.

There have been many chaotic weeks during the short presidency of Donald Trump, but this one may rank as one of the most tumultuous yet.

The Senate scrambled to keep alive hopes of an Obamacare replacement bill, a key Trump campaign promise, while the president waged a Twitter barrage against his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, over his decision months ago to recuse himself from the Russia investigation looking into possible meddling between the Trump campaign and Russia during last year's election.

Stoking the base

In the midst of it all, Trump held a campaign-style rally Tuesday in Ohio before thousands of enthusiastic supporters and a smattering of protesters who were booed by the pro-Trump crowd.

Protesters hold up signs during a rally as President Donald Trump speaks at the Covelli Centre in Youngstown, Ohio, July 25, 2017.
Protesters hold up signs during a rally as President Donald Trump speaks at the Covelli Centre in Youngstown, Ohio, July 25, 2017.

For Trump, a health care victory in the Senate — far from certain — might turn around his low poll numbers and get his agenda back on track. With that in mind, the president was in campaign mode during his rally in Youngstown, Ohio. "No president has done anywhere near what we have done in his first six months. Not even close," Trump told the crowd.

Trump seems to enjoy the energy of supporters who so far have remained loyal no matter how low he dips in national polls.

Unique but controversial style

Trump's unique presidential style was clearly on display in Youngstown. "He is trying to gin up the crowd at rallies to be more boisterous. He sees it as a popularity and a media presence," said Dan Mahaffee, the Director of Policy at the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress in Washington.

A supporter holds up a sign as President Donald Trump speaks at the Covelli Centre in Youngstown, Ohio, July 25, 2017.
A supporter holds up a sign as President Donald Trump speaks at the Covelli Centre in Youngstown, Ohio, July 25, 2017.

Trump's Youngstown visit came at a moment when his agenda has largely stalled. The outcome of the Senate debate on health care is uncertain, and so is the timetable for when Congress might tackle tax reform or infrastructure spending.

Trump also generated plenty of interest this week with his tweets targeting Sessions, as well as his announcement via Twitter on Wednesday that he wants transgender Americans barred from serving in the U.S. military.

'Good numbers' with Republicans

Critics have slammed the president's Twitter habit as a distraction and, in some cases, not presidential. But Trump had a ready comeback during his speech in Ohio. "Sometimes they say, 'He doesn't act presidential,'" Trump told supporters. "With the exception of the late, great Abraham Lincoln, I can be more presidential than any president that has ever held this office. That I can tell you."

Youngstown was also a reminder that, while Trump has historically low approval ratings for a new president, he remains popular with his core supporters. "He retains pretty good numbers with Republican voters, usually 80 percent approval or better," noted University of Virginia political analyst Kyle Kondik.

Watch: Trump Rallies Supporters Amid a Chaotic Week in Washington

Democrats warn on Russia

Democrats remain unified in opposing Trump's agenda in Congress. They also fear that Trump's tweets targeting Sessions signal his desire to end the investigation into possible collusion with Russia in last year's election.

"Many Americans must be wondering if the president is trying to pry open the Office of Attorney General to appoint someone during the August recess who will fire Special Counsel Mueller and shut down the Russian investigation," said Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer. Several Republicans have also expressed dismay with Trump's Twitter campaign against Sessions.

Trump's base has shown little concern about the Russia investigation. But Mahaffee warned that Trump's focus on pleasing his base could limit his success down the road. "He has made no attempts, really, to push beyond his base of support and he has actually doubled-down on media like Fox News or Breitbart, outlets that speak directly to people who are conservative or want conservative-leaning news."

Staying the course

The Youngstown rally was further proof that despite his critics, Trump seems determined to stay the course and stick with his unique style of governing.

"Mr. Trump is a unique president. We've never had anybody quite like him in the Oval Office before," said Brookings Institution scholar William Galston. But Galston added that "If you want to have a 40 percent approval rating, then just imitate Mr. Trump. If you would like a governing majority, then you may want to choose a different course."

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    Jim Malone

    Jim Malone has served as VOA’s National correspondent covering U.S. elections and politics since 1995. Prior to that he was a VOA congressional correspondent and served as VOA’s East Africa Correspondent from 1986 to 1990. Jim began his VOA career with the English to Africa Service in 1983.

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