The campaign is over, but Donald Trump still likes his rallies

The campaign is over, but Donald Trump still likes his rallies
President-elect Donald Trump, left, takes the stage after Vice President-elect Mike Pence introduces him at a rally Thursday at Hy-Vee Hall in Des Moines, Iowa. (Andrew Harnik / Associated Press)

Donald Trump has now been president-elect for a month. He celebrated Friday with not one, but two public rallies.

"There has never been a movement like this," the man who will become the nation's 45th president exalted as he basked in the adulation of supporters in Baton Rouge, La.


Considering the challenges before an incoming president and the burden of filling more than 4,000 jobs across executive departments in the federal government, the 73 days from election day to inauguration barely seems sufficient.

But Trump, who has upended political tradition all year, is changing the rules again.

He is conducting a "USA Thank You" tour that lets him alternately discuss his plans for the nation and relive highlights of the insurgent campaign that launched the former reality show star into the nation's highest office.

Not that the audience seems to mind. During a rally here Thursday night, supporters roared as Trump replayed the TV network projections that put states in his column Nov. 8.

"We won North Carolina, and we won Pennsylvania. And we won Michigan, and we won Wisconsin, and we won Georgia and Texas, and Utah," he ticked off. "Remember Utah?"

As a candidate, Trump would similarly revel in positive polls while slighting the media and his rivals. Now he keeps close eye on his personal approval ratings — "We're going very rapidly up," he reported Friday, "like a rocket ship" — and still admonishes rivals, surrogates and donors who fought to defeat him.

"Those wealthy people aren't so unhappy now because the stock market has gone up so much because of us," he crowed Thursday.

For Trump, the rallies are an escape from the endless interviews with job applicants and wannabe advisors who have paraded into his Manhattan high-rise in New York City, his golf club in New Jersey and his beach compound in Florida.

Aides have noted that Trump, ever the performer, found purpose in his public rallies during the campaign. He would add public events in states that weren't seen as competitive but which he visited for fundraising or other private events.

His post-election rallies have mostly been in states Trump won that previously had gone for President Obama: first Ohio, then North Carolina and Iowa.

After Friday's stop in reliably-red Louisiana to boost a Republican candidate in Saturday's Senate runoff election, he headed to Michigan, one of the tipping-point states in November.

Other stops will let him recall special moments from the race.

Next week he will visit Alabama, where he drew one of the biggest crowds of his campaign. It also is home state of Sen. Jeff Sessions, his fervent supporter and pick for U.S. attorney general.

Trump has done a handful of media interviews and released a video, but he has yet to hold a news conference. He mostly communicates with the public via Twitter posts.


It's a stark contrast from Obama eight years ago after he had won the White House.

For the first few weeks of the transition, he was mainly out of the spotlight, with daily briefings that made clear the dangers of the unfolding economic crisis.

His first major personnel decision came Nov. 24 when he announced his economic team. It was the first of 10 news conferences Obama would hold before the end of 2008. He also began releasing weekly video addresses to the public.

"The majority of the time was spent finding and building this team," said Tommy Vietor, a former Obama administration official who served on the transition team.

With so many critical positions to fill beyond the secretary and deputy secretary level, "it's a hell of an undertaking in a short period of time," Vietor said, and one Obama took seriously.

Trump has also used his rallies to defend some of his Cabinet picks. After critics noted how many millionaires and billionaires he had appointed, Trump said it was by design.

"I want people who made a fortune!" he said here Thursday. "These people have given up fortunes of income in order to make a dollar a year, and they are so proud to do it. And you watch, you watch what's going to happen. It's going to happen fast, too, going to happen fast."

Some of Trump's ardent supporters think he should keep holding these rallies even after he takes office Jan. 20.

"This is a way to keep people energized, let them know he cares, and keep them enthused so we stay behind him," said Dennis Sult, who cheered Trump at the rally in Des Moines. "The hard work's just begun, and the next two years is critical."

Acknowledging some early missteps in his tenure, Obama has said he and his team did not perhaps explain what they were doing as much as they should have.

"The incoming administration doesn't have to put out a huge number of fires," he told a news conference last month after the election.

"They may want to take the country in a significantly different direction, but they've got time to consider what exactly they want to achieve," Obama added.

Given the crisis atmosphere Obama inherited in 2008, he sought to reassure the public through his appointments, Vietor said.

The only celebratory events of the sort Trump is holding came closer to Obama's inauguration.

"I can see the value from a political perspective of keeping your base energized and building momentum behind a political agenda," Vietor said. "But it doesn't seem what he's doing. He's basking in victory.

"I'm not begrudging the tactic. It's just that the execution isn't there," he added.

The fervor of Trump's audiences could also serve to pressure him to deliver on his key goals.

At rallies Thursday and Friday, there were spontaneous chants of "Build the wall!" and "Drain the swamp!" — referring to his signature pledges to build a wall along the entire border with Mexico and purge the federal government of special interest influence.

Trump remarked Thursday that he had been skeptical of "drain the swamp" as a slogan, calling it "hokey." But campaign audiences had responded so strongly, "I started saying it like I meant it."

Though there are many similarities between Trump's campaign rallies and the early editions of his post-election tour, some of his more partisan edges have softened.

As the audience booed the mere mention of Obama's name in Louisiana on Friday, Trump instead offered praise.

"He's really doing great. He's been so nice," he said.

When his remarks Thursday were interrupted by coordinated protests in the audience, his response was not to order the individuals to be kicked out in the blunt terms he had once used.

"That's all right," Trump said. "I think they are actually on our side. They just don't know it yet."

For more coverage of the presidential transition, follow @mikememoli on Twitter