Updated Feb 5, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Peak Trump at the State of the Union

Speaker Pelosi rips up her copy of President Trump's State of the Union address. Photo: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

President Trump, on the eve of his impeachment acquittal, delivered a victory-lap State of the Union address in the very chamber where he had been impeached 48 days before — and just across the Capitol from where he'll be acquitted today.

The state of play: Trump never mentioned impeachment but pounded socialism, setting high-decibel themes for the 2020 campaign at a moment when his potential rivals are in disarray following the Iowa caucus debacle.

  • Hours earlier, Gallup had released polling showing his job approval rating had risen to 49%, his highest since he took office. 50% disapprove and only 1% had no opinion — a nation precisely split.
  • In the same poll, the GOP has a higher favorable rating — 51% — than at any point since 2005!

Why it matters: Trump is getting stronger, not weaker, despite his impeachment. And he's increasingly self-confident about his message of free market accomplishments, versus what he paints as the dark dangers of modern liberalism.

  • Trump gloated and goaded while dour Democrats in the chamber fumed and fidgeted — and wondered how they botched a simple vote in Iowa and improved Trump’s favorables by impeaching him.

Speaker Pelosi denied him the usual honors in her introduction, and he withheld his handshake. 

  • Afterward, she tore up her copy of the speech, right on the podium. Four rips, by the AP's count.
  • Republican lawmakers chanted: "Four more years!"

Between the lines: This address was no olive branch or even nod to bipartisanship. It was a highly partisan speech geared toward re-election — and vindication.

Trump included shout-outs to every slice of the GOP base and — as if it were a TV special from his reality-show days — laced the speech with awards and surprises.

  • Trump included shout-outs to school prayer, abortion, protecting gun rights, "radical Islamic terrorism," his Mideast peace plan, killing al-Baghdadi and Qasem Soleimani and destroying the ISIS caliphate, sanctuary cities, and the "long, tall and very powerful wall."

Some Democrats yelled "No!" when Trump announced he was awarding Rush Limbaugh, who told listeners Monday that he has lung cancer, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

  • Melania hung the ribbon around Limbaugh's neck in the gallery.

The bottom line: Trump was cocky, defiant and unapologetic, and cranked up the TV moments in trying to appeal to African Americans and Latinos, despite a record that left many leaders in those communities agog at the contrast.

  • Trump tossed a "thank you, Mitch," to Senate Majority Leader McConnell, noting the confirmation of 187 federal judges during his administration, including two Supreme Court justices: "And we have many in the pipeline."

Go deeper: Trump's sense of invincibility

Go deeper