But just like at the rallies he used to campaign throughout the Republican primary and the general election, Trump’s presentation in Indianapolis was marred by self-congratulatory bombast, glaring omissions, and bizarre diversions.
It was, in short, the return of Trump the candidate—and it’s not clear he’ll ever leave.
After campaigning for months partially on the concept that the outsourcing of jobs to other countries, particularly Mexico, is crippling the United States (despite the fact that many of his own eponymous products, like his garish ties, are made in China), Trump managed to convince a company to reconsider the practice, at least in part.
Carrier had planned on closing two Indiana factories, sending more than 2,000 jobs to Mexico, something Trump vocally denounced throughout his campaign.
Back then, he played the tough guy, promising to inflict painful tariffs on the company if they went through with it.
But in the end, Trump settled on a gentler strategy: allowing Carrier to outsource 1,300 jobs to Mexico in return for 800 jobs remaining in Indiana for economic incentives worth a total of $7 million, negotiated by the vice president-elect, Mike Pence, who for the time being is still the state’s governor and who introduced Trump on Thursday.
A spokesperson for the Trump transition didn’t respond when asked by The Daily Beast if Carrier would still be penalized for the 1,300 jobs they are outsourcing to Mexico.
“Thank you, thank you everybody!” Trump said when he arrived at the lectern, stamped with the Carrier logo. “Thank you very much. Thank you very much.”
He gave a thumbs up to a man in the crowd. “I love that red hat,” he told him.
Trump began by praising Pence, and going on a tangent about how selecting him as his running mate was a wise decision, even though some questioned it at the time—an unusual series of comments for a world leader, but true to form for The Donald.
“Everybody loves Mike,” he said, “he’s become something very special.”
He then reminisced about the Republican primary, which ended in April, marveling at the fact that critics said he would be stopped in Indiana, but he prevailed regardless of the conventional wisdom.
He recounted his victory margin in the state in both the primary and general election.
“It was something,” he said, “that’s pretty great, and I just love the people, incredible people.”
When that part of the show was over, he marveled at his ability to get the deal done with Carrier, talking about a nightly news segment he’d seen about the company recently, and perplexingly referring to his statement, during the campaign, “Carrier will never leave,” as “a euphemism” meant to imply all companies, not just Carrier.
He colorfully told the story of calling Gregory Hayes, the chairman of United Technologies Corp., Carrier’s parent company. Trump put on a somewhat mocking deep voice and raised his hand to his ear like a phone, “Mr. President-elect, sir, how are you?” he said, pretending to be Hayes.
“It’s wonderful to win, you know that” he said, “think, if I lost, he wouldn’t have returned my call, I don’t know. Where is Greg?” he peered out into the crowd. “Would you return—if I lost and called you, I don’t think you would’ve called me!”
Then, he complained about the size of the room he was speaking in.
“I don’t know who arranged that one,” he said.
Contrary to the subdued crowd he was addressing, he claimed, there were people “going wild” in the factory he just visited—a throwback to his rally days, when he’d say thousands of people were unable to get into his venues, despite the fact that the campaign often distributed far more tickets than the spaces had the capacity for.
For some reason, Trump then started talking about Bobby Knight, the former basketball coach of the Indiana Hoosiers who was fired for allegedly assaulting his players. Knight supported Trump’s candidacy, and all this time later, Trump is apparently still in awe of that.
“We’ve had such help here,” he said, “Bobby Knight! Nobody in Indiana had ever heard of Bobby Knight—how great is Bobby Knight?”
He then recalled how Knight came to support him, before recounting all of the coach’s basketball victories.
When he pivoted back to the topic of the event, Trump reiterated his belief that companies will no longer be outsourcing under his leadership—but he neglected to mention the 1,300 jobs Carrier is sending to Mexico.
He ran down a list of things, some vague and related to unspecified “regulations,” he planned to do to keep jobs in the U.S.
Presidents and politicians of all stripes are masters at making small victories look like monumental achievements. In this sense, Trump is no different than the establishment swamp creatures he likes to deride. But Trump has a unique political advantage: as Vox’s Matthew Yglesias noted, he’s expert in spinning in such a way that he receives unprecedented media coverage.
It’s difficult to imagine any other politician receiving wall to wall coverage for saving a relatively minor number of jobs in a heartland state. But that’s Trump’s gift and for the next four years, we’re stuck with it—and stuck, too, with the campaign rallies, which he’s unwilling to leave behind.