The political calculus of holding a Trump campaign rally in Wisconsin was never that clear to begin with. The president won the state by less than a point in 2016. Would a visit 13 days before the midterms enrage and motivate Democrats more than it energized his base? Who really knew for sure.
Governor Scott Walker, down by 10 points in one recent poll and up by one in another, had a lot riding on the answer. And as luck would have it, the timing couldn’t have been worse for a hyped-up Make America Great Again event, coming at the end of a day when a bevy of Trump’s political opponents—those he typically goes after at his rallies—were reported to have received pipe bombs in the mail.
So, America, meet your restrained, unifying commander in chief, if only briefly: “I want to begin tonight by addressing the suspicious devices and packages that were mailed to current and former high-ranking government officials,” Trump began, speaking from a podium inside a hangar, with a glistening Air Force One on the tarmac outside. “Any acts or threats of political violence are an attack on our democracy itself.”
He didn’t stop there, using the moment to extol the virtues of harmony, civility, and common purpose in America. His restraint at first seemed a nod to the uncertainty of how best to play Wisconsin. And this was a side of Trump rarely seen, especially at one of his rallies, which often become defined by discord, derision, and attack. “We want all sides to come together in peace and harmony,” the kinder, gentler Trump said. “We can do it. It will happen. More broadly, there is much we can do to bring our nation together. Those engaged in the political arena must stop treating political opponents as being morally defective.”