February 29th, 2024
L&T Opinions Page

GUEST COLUMN, Derek Hunter, townhall.com


I get that he doesn’t care what I think, or what anyone thinks for that matter, but watching former President Donald Trump’s speech announcing his 2024 bid for the White House some things stuck out to me that, should he address them, would make him a better candidate. Will he take this or any advice? Probably not. Still, it’s worth putting out there just in case he wins the Republican nomination. 

First, Trump has significantly improved in his delivery of a teleprompter speech. In the past, when reading prepared remarks, the former President sounded awful – stilted and unfamiliar with the text. On Tuesday, he knew the speech and delivered it accordingly. That will help him. His ad libs were always good because it’s how he speaks, but his speeches came off as forced and awkward. If he can keep this going it will serve him well. 

That being said, he needs to learn to stick to the script when circumstances call for it. His ad libs likely doubled the length of time of his speech and added nothing of importance or substance. What could and should have been a good 20-25-minute address became somewhere in the neighborhood of an hour and ten minutes. That’s fine for a rally – people come to a rally craving as much time as possible – but not an announcement speech.

The audience Trump needed to reach was not in the room at Mar-A-Lago, those people were hand-picked and 100 percent loyal (with many of them having their financial health and/or cable news “fame” pegged to their proximity to Trump, which is something he’d be well suited to address and cut off in the future), he had no need to win them over. The people he needed to impress were at home watching on TV. While I said his delivery and even the content of the prepared remarks were excellent, the ad libs likely lost people.

Swipes at DeSantis and complaints about 2020 do not help Donald Trump in any way, but he had to make them. Everyone in the room and watching at home are fully aware of Trump’s record – we all lived through it. No need for a refresher, it wasn’t that long ago. But when you go on so long that Fox News cuts into your speech you have gone on too long.

I was shocked to see Sean Hannity cut in around minute 44 and go to a panel of Mike Huckabee and Pete Hegseth. Nothing against Huckabee or Hegseth, but neither of them are running for anything nor are their opinions “news” or relevant to the announcement they preempted. I don’t know who – Hannity or one of his producers – made the call to drop Trump’s announcement speech, but that was a sure sign that it had gone on too long. Hegseth and Huckabee aren’t hard “gets,” with both working for the network and are, therefore, pretty much at their disposal. I was surprised to see it happen.

I had to find the rest of the speech online, though I suspect most viewers didn’t bother. Not because they weren’t curious or interested, but because it was a hassle. A concise speech without the ad libs would have avoided this. If Trump just wanted to play to the crowd, they were stuck in the room and weren’t going anywhere. After his speech, he could have basked in their attention all he wanted. But the speech was supposed to be for general consumption and it was yanked, denying it to even the most dedicated Trump supporters who wanted it.

Then again, the most dedicated Trump supporters should not have been the audience for that speech. He has them, they’d jump on a landmine for him. It’s nice to acknowledge and thank them, but everything Trump does from here on out needs to be about broadening his appeal. As much as his devotees love him, there aren’t enough of them to win an election, or even a nomination right now. 

Trump has to find a way to broaden his appeal and Georgia presents that opportunity.

Herschel Walker is Trump's hand-picked candidate, having encouraged him to run in the first place. If Donald Trump can drag Walker across the finish line (because if we’re being honest, he isn’t the greatest candidate ever), then he would have bragging rights. 

Trump took credit for more than 200 election victories in the midterms, but he deserves very little. Endorsing candidates like Marco Rubio, Ron DeSantis, Chuck Grassley, or any number of Republican incumbents or candidates who were going to win no matter what does not make you a kingmaker or soothsayer. It’s the political equivalent of predicting the sun will rise in the east. Where it counted, where Trump candidates won in the primaries, they largely lost in the generals. A Walker win would wipe a lot of that out. Especially if Trump takes an active role in the campaign.

It would also be nice if – and I recognize this is likely a pipe dream – Trump agreed to campaign for Walker with DeSantis too. Showing an ability to put what’s good for the party ahead of himself would shock and help, if Walker wanted it and DeSantis agreed. Unity has a weird way of winning.

I have no idea what a 14-month campaign before the first vote in a primary of caucus looks like, no one does because it’s never been done before. To avoid people suffering Trump exhaustion, The Donald needs to find ways to occupy his time that help the cause of conservatism and doesn’t wear out the patience of the people he needs to win over. Not only do I now know if he can do it, I don’t know if anyone can do that. We shall see.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR — Derek Hunter is the host of a free daily podcast, host of a daily radio show, and author of the book, Outrage, INC., which exposes how liberals use fear and hatred to manipulate the masses, and host of the weekly “Week in **** Review” podcast where the news is spoken about the way it deserves to be. Follow him on Twitter at @DerekAHunter.

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