Donald Trump must have hired some researchers.
The famously off-the-cuff orator delivered a surprisingly specific speech on trade, making seven detailed policy pledges while predicting that Hillary Clinton, if elected, would tweak and then sign the enormous Pacific trade pact she now opposes as a candidate for president.
Trump’s address to workers at a Pennsylvania aluminum factory continued his recent effort to lift both the tone and substance of his speeches. But it marked an even bigger departure in its sheer wonkiness. First, his campaign sent out the prepared remarks with 128 footnotes. And in delivering the speech from a teleprompter, Trump delved into such granular policy detail that he referenced specific sections of decades-old trade laws and vowed to invoke “Article 2205” of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Doing so, he said, would withdraw the U.S. from NAFTA if its trading partners don’t agree to renegotiate the Clinton-era accord.
After a campaign shakeup and a week’s worth of polls showing Trump falling far behind Clinton, the trade speech appeared to be the candidate’s latest attempt to reassure Republican Party leaders, donors, and even voters that he has the depth of knowledge to become president. Just 48 hours ago, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to say in a television interview whether Trump was qualified to be president—a statement that followed an earlier musing by McConnell that Trump “doesn’t know a lot about the issues.” On Tuesday, Trump clearly wanted to demonstrate that he does—or at least that he listens to advisers who do. (Reporters noted that the campaign sent the prepared speech out on a Microsoft Word document titled “Jared,” a possible reference to Trump’s son in law, Jared Kushner, who is the publisher of the New York Observer.)