After having waited 90 minutes outside in the freezing cold I kind of expected there to be more Trump supporters among those of us who showed up to his rally in Concord, New Hampshire. While the high school gym was packed - there were crowds of people standing off to the side - when asked by Andrew Hemingway, former state director for Newt Gingrich’s 2012 campaign, who here supported Trump only about ¼ of the audience stood up. It seemed remarkably underwhelming, especially compared to the Cruz rally last week. Apparently many people were there for the same reason I was – simple curiosity. The rally did not really get any better once the man of the hour came to the stage.
Although I greatly appreciated that the event started 15 minutes early, Mr. Trump failed to amaze. His speech was more reminiscent of a Virginia Woolf stream of consciousness novel than a campaign speech. He jumped from topic to topic without any seemingly logical progression or transition. In the middle of a sentence Mr. Trump completely left the realm of politics and yelled out “How great is Tom Brady!” which received thunderous applause. Later in his speech while answering questions Trump derailed his thought to hand out the ever-sound advice “take good care of your dogs”. While I certainly agree with that sentiment I’m not sure what place it has at a political rally.
Trump also offered some confusion stating that he had a really exciting endorsement coming up, but that in the past he didn’t really see the significance in endorsements. He stated that the importance should be on the candidates themselves, not other people, yet he continued to tout the importance and excitement surrounding his upcoming endorsement. Trump also promised the audience that after this last point (trade) he would take questions, yet somehow over the course of ten minutes Trump managed to wind his way to environmentalism and bombing oil. After careful analysis of his speech I’m still not sure how he managed to get there.
Mr. Trump ended the rally in a similar fashion to his fellow candidates and agreed to take some questions from the audience. However, the experience left me feeling cheated. Trump only answered three short questions, all of which were asked by people sitting in the VIP front two rows. Additionally, Trump failed to answer a single question; instead he talked his way around them.
The first question Trump was asked had something to do with the NRA and gun rights, although it was asked in such a convoluted manor that I was unable to follow the exact line of questioning. Trump, apparently understanding the question, still managed to talk his way around the issue without delivering a cohesive answer. From what I understood Trump is very much in support of the second amendment, but failed to say much beyond that.
The second question focused on his plans for reducing costs of college and college debt. Once again, Trump talked a lot without really saying anything of merit or substance. He talked about the importance of creating jobs for people, something he is very good at, but he never tackled the topic of student debt or the overall cost of tuition. He also failed to outline how he would create these jobs, falling back on his catch phrase of the night "trust me".
The third question – the famous ‘take care of your dogs’ question- was asked by a 16-year old girl who wanted to know who exactly Trump planned to surround himself with if he were elected president. Understandably, Trump did not directly answer this question, as it is far too early for any candidate to have an answer. However, instead of saying the above or something similar, Trump simply parroted the question back to the girl in a number of variations on the theme. He promised that he would surround himself with “the best people” and then went on to allude to famous business people he knew without naming any of them.
Despite his subpar performance, after the last question many in the audience flooded to the fenced in stage to get closer to the famous man. I saw a number of parents push their small children forward and then follow in their wake, shoving people out of the way pretending to be a concerned parent attempting to follow their child. Personally, I had no desire to meet Mr. Trump and could not wait to leave the crowded gym. Even looking past his policy ideas, I believe the American people should elect someone capable of answering a simple question and following a single train of thought. I left this rally even firmer in my commitment to vote for Hillary Clinton than ever before.
~Eleanor Anderson is a senior at St. Olaf from Libertyville, Illinois majoring in Political Science and English. She is in New Hampshire as part of a St. Olaf political science class studying the presidential election.