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Trump's Stump Speech Reveals Changing Style With A Consistent Theme


Presidential candidates deliver hundreds of stump speeches over the course of their campaigns, and this week we're listening closely to the messages that the two major party candidates deliver in city after city. Yesterday we heard Hillary Clinton. Today it's Donald Trump.

NPR's Sarah McCammon has heard many, many of his speeches as she follows his campaign, and she's with us now. Hi there.


MCEVERS: Donald Trump tends to deliver his stump speeches at these big rallies in these big arenas. Just tell us what that's like.

MCCAMMON: You know, Kelly, they're all pretty similar. I mean early in the campaign, he used to be really free form and never speak from a script. He's been more scripted lately, but you know, just about every stump speech hits some of the same major themes. We're going to listen now to parts of a speech that Trump gave late last week in Pensacola, Fla.

Now, there's always a rotating playlist of very loud music at these rallies. This one opened up with the country song "God Bless The USA."


LEE GREENWOOD: (Singing) And defend her still today...

DONALD TRUMP: Now this is a crowd. There are thousands of people outside that can't get in - fantastic. Way to go. Thank you. Thank you, everybody.


MCCAMMON: So Kelly, that was true in this case. There was a big, long line of people who couldn't get in. But Trump tends to say this regardless of the size of the crowd. He pumps them up by telling them that they're part of a movement, and there's a consistent way in which he tries to demonstrate that.


TRUMP: Polls came out today. We're up in Ohio. We're up in Florida. We're up in North Carolina - up. We're up nationwide. CNN two days ago - up nationwide.

MCEVERS: OK, so Donald Trump just cited a CNN poll there, but we also often hear him spending a lot of time during his stump speeches actually attacking the media, right?

MCCAMMON: Right. At just about every rally, he points back to the reporters gathered at the back of the room and calls them dishonest. And you know, again, he's working with the people in the crowd here who almost always turn around and boo.


TRUMP: And with thousands of people outside, I challenge those cameras to show this arena packed. They never do.


TRUMP: They never do. They never, ever do.

MCCAMMON: Now, the truth is a lot of crowd photos are taken by the media at Trump rallies...


MCCAMMON: ...Because the crowd is just such a huge part of the story.

MCEVERS: OK, so whipping up the crowd - that's clearly a thing that he does at these stump speeches. When he does start talking about substance, what is his message?

MCCAMMON: So his attacks on the media are kicking off an indictment of something bigger, what he calls the rigged system. He says the establishment, the government, the mainstream media have created rules and institutions that are hurting average Americans.


TRUMP: All the people who've rigged this system - and we have had a rigged system - for their own personal benefit are trying to stop our change campaign because they know that their gravy train has reached its last stop.


MCCAMMON: And it doesn't take long before Trump lands this message right on his opponent.


TRUMP: It's been happening long enough. And the reason they don't do anything about it is because the special interests and the donors control our politicians, and they control Hillary Clinton.

MCEVERS: Does Trump lay out how exactly he thinks the special interests and the donors have controlled politicians?

MCCAMMON: He doesn't say quite how, but he walks through all the things he says have gone wrong because of people, he says, like Hillary Clinton - you know, her handling of the attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, and the private email system she kept while secretary of state.


TRUMP: Hillary Clinton has presided over the greatest series of foreign - and you know this - I mean the greatest series that I've ever seen of foreign policy failures and mistakes and blunders that anyone has ever seen. Everything she touches has turned bad. Now she wants to be president.

I mean the only thing she's done well and she'll go down in history for, I have to admit, is getting out of trouble with the emails. That's the single greatest achievement of Hillary Clinton.


TRUMP: True.

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting) Lock her up. Lock her up.

MCEVERS: And you can hear the crowd chanting lock her up there. So that is Donald Trump's case against Hillary Clinton. How does he lay out his own agenda?

MCCAMMON: So there are a couple of key issues he always mentions in really every stump speech. Let's hear that.


TRUMP: We're going to pursue new trade policies that put American workers first, and we're going to keep our jobs in our country.

MCCAMMON: So he's promised to cut better trade deals, even renegotiate existing deals like NAFTA. And then of course there's the issue that's been the core of his campaign.


TRUMP: We will also have a very, very strong border...


TRUMP: ...That stops people and drugs - and those drugs are poisoning our youth and poisoning our people - from illegally pouring into our country. And we will build the wall, and Mexico will pay for the wall.


MCEVERS: Building this wall of course has been Trump's biggest, most consistent promise of this campaign. Is it also - you know, during these speeches, is it the biggest moment?

MCCAMMON: Yeah, I mean there are a lot of big moments. It's not just the wall. It's his promise to build up the military, to be tough on our adversaries. And all these lines in Trump's speech feed into the iconic idea of his campaign.


MCCAMMON: We will be strong. We will be safe. We will win again. Ladies and gentlemen, we will make America great again. Thank you very much. God bless you. Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you, everybody.


THE ROLLING STONES: (Singing) A glass of wine in her hand...

MCCAMMON: And often Trump closes his rallies with this Rolling Stones song "You Can't Always Get What You Want," which matches the kind of defiant tone of his speeches.

MCEVERS: That's NPR's Sarah McCammon Thank you.

MCCAMMON: Thank you.


THE ROLLING STONES: (Singing) You can't always get what you want. You can't always get... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sarah McCammon worked for Iowa Public Radio as Morning Edition Host from January 2010 until December 2013.
Sarah McCammon
Sarah McCammon is a National Correspondent covering the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast for NPR. Her work focuses on political, social and cultural divides in America, including abortion and reproductive rights, and the intersections of politics and religion. She's also a frequent guest host for NPR news magazines, podcasts and special coverage.
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