Trump finds comfort in rallying base

Story highlights

  • Trump's 100th day in office falls Saturday
  • He will hold a rally in Pennsylvania

Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump is going back to his comfort zone of rallying his base after betraying a tinge of regretful nostalgia for the life of a billionaire reality star he left behind.

As he marks the 100th day of his administration Saturday and pivots from a contentious period of marking a milestone he rejects but is fervently observing all the same, the President is revisiting the scorched earth of his campaign.
Breaking free of Washington Friday, Trump clearly relished an appearance at the National Rifle Association's annual meeting in Atlanta, blasting political correctness and conjuring up the populist buzz of 2016.
    On Saturday, Trump may turn it up on notch as he gathers with the faithful supporters in Pennsylvania who embraced his anti-establishment, politically incorrect tirades and powered his shocking charge to the White House.
    The event just happens to be going directly up against the annual White House Correspondents' Association annual dinner, setting up a contrast between Trump in the heartland and the wallowers of the Washington swamp he uses as a foil now that he lacks a electoral opponent.
    The President will bask in the applause and the affirmation of his political base after a draining first chapter of a presidency which began in a blaze of controversy -- and never let up, overloading Washington's capacity to process what was happening.
    In just the last few days, for instance, Trump has lashed out at federal judges, threatened to pull out of NAFTA, demanded payment from South Korea for a US missile shield and mused about the chances of a "major conflict" with North Korea.
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    But put the political cacophony and Twitter-fueled outrage aside, and it's difficult to make a case that Trump's first 100 days have been a roaring success. The White House highlights a flurry of executive orders on trade, the environment and gutting regulations, but much of Trump's penmanship would not last a few days of a future Democratic presidency.
    Trump meanwhile lacks a major legislative achievement, has the lowest approval ratings of any new commander in chief since World War II, has seen several key immigration goals held up by the courts and is yet to show his deal making skills can transform Washington like he said they would.
    The White House's repeated failure to pass health care reform in the House is hardly a good omen for the rest of its legislative agenda.
    That reality and the President's refusal to countenance anything but the notion of overwhelming victory, has forced him into a bizarre week of demeaning the 100-days milestone while simultaneously claiming three months of staggering success.
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    "We're getting a lot of things done. I don't think there's ever been anything like this," Trump told reporters on Friday.
    "It's a false standard, 100 days, but I have to tell you, I don't think anybody has done what we've been able to do in 100 days, so we're very happy."
    Trump's weekend trip to Pennsylvania -- his most unlikely state victory in November, may also be designed to replenish the President's stocks of self-belief and defiance.
    Questions are swirling about his morale and sense of political purpose following an interview with Reuters which raised questions about whether he actually wants to be president after his shocking election win.
    "I loved my previous life, I loved my previous life. I had so many things going," Trump said. "I actually, this is more work than my previous life. I thought it would be easier."
    He later added: "I do miss my old life. I like to work. But this is actually more work."
    It's not unusual at all for a new president to be bewildered by the demands of the job, or to pine for the anonymity and freedom of civilian life.
    But it is odd for a President to speak so openly in such a way so early in his presidency. The comments left Democrats on Friday arguing that their claims before the election that Trump was unqualified to be president had been vindicated.
    Yet Trump's entire appeal to the millions of voters who have turned their backs on regular politicians, was based on the fact that he never had held elected or political office before, so his supporters may view his remarks differently.
    And with that in mind, there is a clear message in Trump's itinerary as he marks the end of his first 100 days.
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    He might have the lowest ratings after 100 days of any modern president and lack the legacy defining achievements that Franklin Roosevelt and Barack Obama boasted at this point in their administrations, but he's not changing.
    At the NRA on Friday, Trump recreated the unpredictable and often ad-libbed monologues that were familiar from the campaign trail, but that often seem so jarring coming from the mouth of a president, who faces ceremonial and political conventions and constraints that a candidate doesn't.
    At the NRA in Atlanta, Trump spelled out hard lines on immigration, terrorism, protecting gun rights and foreign policy, recommitting himself to the philosophical underpinnings of his 2016 campaign.
    "It's time to get tough, it's time we finally got smart. And yes, it's also time to put America first," Trump said, drawing chants of "USA! USA!"
    "I see all of those beautiful red-and-white hats, but we will never forget our favorite slogan of them all, "Make America Great Again."
    The President even reprised his "Pocahontas" swipe at Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a possible 2020 opponent.
    Trump will be tussling with another familiar foe on Saturday night, the media.
    Not only will the President snub the big Beltway press party -- the White House Correspondents' Dinner -- Trump is setting up a prime-time, split-screen television clash with the event.
    Nothing will make Trump's point that he has kept faith with his anti-establishment crowd more eloquently than his rally in the heartland while the press yucks it up in tuxedos and ball gowns.
    "I respectfully suggest that it's not just about the correspondents' dinner, it's rather an opportunity for him to talk to voters that elected him and what he's been able to accomplish in the first 100 days," Trump's spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters aboard Air Force One on Friday.
    Trump will be talking to "voters about what he's been able to do and how much more there is to do, and how committed he is to seeing the next 100 days and the 100 days after that produce real results for Americans."