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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 14 December 2018

Trump gloats of his successes and welcomes a new Republican Governor

After weeks of political turmoil at the White House and deadlock in Congress, Mr Trump returned to the sort of barnstorming performance that electrified his base and won him the election, reports Rob Crilly

Donald Trump is here to stay, writes Sholto Byrnes. Michael Reynolds / EPA
Donald Trump is here to stay, writes Sholto Byrnes. Michael Reynolds / EPA

Donald Trump travelled to his political heartland on Thursday night to deliver a populist speech revisiting his favourite campaign themes of creating jobs, building a wall with Mexico and keeping violent extremists out of the country.

He talked up stock market gains and his commitment to getting coal miners back to work.

"As you have seen, I have kept that promise as president," he told an excitable crowd in Huntington, West Virginia.

"We are putting our coal miners back to work. We have ended the war on beautiful, clean coal.

During the campaign, Mr Trump told his supporters they would tire of winning.

But in office he has struggled to turn his agenda into solid gains. Efforts to repeal Obamacare have so far ended in failure.

Instead his speech on Thursday night offered a chance to celebrate his election victory, rail against opponents and to announce that Jim Justice, the Democratic governor of West Virginia, was defecting to the Republican party.

He returned to some of his favourite rhetoric from the campaign.

“We have seen the bloodshed and devastation inflicted by terrorists in America, in Europe and all across the world,” he said, before pausing and emphasising his chosen words.

“I said it during the campaign and I will say it right here tonight: We will keep radical Islamic terrorists out of our country.”

Some of his advisers had cautioned him against the phrase and during his visit to Saudi Arabia in May he spoke instead about “Islamist extremism”.

But Thursday night’s sports arena rally was designed for his base.

He railed against opponents in the Washington “swamp” and among Democrats who would not let go of the Russia investigation.

“They don’t talk about the all-time high stock market, or reforms to the [Department of Veterans Affairs], or manufacturing jobs we’re are bring back to America by the hundreds of thousands,” he said.

The rally was Mr Trump’s seventh in the past six months as looks to rediscover the energy that propelled him to the White House.

West Virginia’s blue collar voters delivered one of his best results during the election, with almost 70 per cent voting for the Republican candidate.

With Mr Trump’s popularity plummeting elsewhere, his support has held steady in the state. At 60 per cent, his approval rating is higher here than anywhere else in the country.

On Thursday night he told them he was working for them.

“Our agenda is the pro-worker agenda. We want to control our borders and lift our people from welfare to work,” he told the audience.

“We want to support our police and make our communities safe.

“We want to reduce taxes and increase wages for all of our people.

“We want to get the special interests out of politics for good.”