The White House promised that President Trump’s State of the Union address would include bipartisan themes and stress unity. That wasn’t close to the truth.
Trump’s political strategy since the moment he was sworn in has been simple: Keep the base energized with red meat on immigration and trade and keep 80% to 90% of Republicans unified around more traditional policy goals such as tax cuts and conservative judges.
It’s important to recognize that many more Republicans were watching than Democrats. He was not talking to the entire nation. Democrats who watched were most likely deeply offended by much of the speech.
Trump is betting on a crowded and divisive Democratic primary for the 2020 presidential nomination. He would also benefit from multiple third party candidates to split the vote. His path to a second term may not require more than 40% to 45% of the vote.
It wouldn’t be surprising if Trump got a short term bump in approval ratings from this “presidential” speech on the most presidential of stages. As his advisers know, the more he reads from a TelePrompter instead of tweeting from his bed, the better he looks.
But more than anything else of substance, it’s most interesting that the speech followed the same political strategy Trump has used from the beginning. He may never win the majority of support from voters. But it may never matter either.