MANCHESTER, New Hampshire — Donald Trump is seizing on the Orlando terror attack to refocus his campaign on national security issues after weeks of bad press on domestic and personal issues.
The presumptive Republican presidential nominee scrapped a long-planned speech on the scandal-plagued past of Democratic challenger Hillary Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, in favor of an address Monday on terrorism, immigration and other related policies.
Trump’s speech Monday at St. Anselm College won’t be the first time he has sought to capitalize politically on a terror attack.
After terrorists launched coordinated attacks in Paris last November, Trump quickly deplored the city for having “the toughest gun laws in the world,” used the moment to upbraid President Barack Obama’s ISIS strategy and slammed the idea of allowing Syrian refugees into the U.S.
Terrorists struck in San Bernardino, California, the next month and five days later Trump issued an even bolder proposal, calling for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.”
In each instance, Trump sought to project both strength and a lack of concern for the reaction to his provocative rhetoric, calculating that both would help him rise in the polls during the Republican primary. Indeed, a majority of Republican voters agreed with Trump’s call to temporarily ban all foreign Muslims from entering the United States.
“Whenever there’s a tragedy, everything goes up, my numbers go way up because we have no strength in this country,” Trump said on CNN after the San Bernardino shooting. “We have weak, sad politicians.”
In the wake of the Orlando shooting, Trump is testing that same theory with the general electorate.
Already on Sunday the billionaire asked on Twitter “when will we get tough, smart & vigilant,” said he appreciated “the congrats for being right on Islamic terrorism” and called the Orlando attack “just the beginning.”
“Our leadership is weak and ineffective. I called it and asked for the ban,” Trump said of his proposed ban on Muslims in a tweet Sunday afternoon. “Must be tough.”
As he made the rounds of the morning newscasts, Trump doubled down on controversial policies for dealing with terror that he laid out during the Republican primary.
Trump again focused on his proposal to ban Muslims and reject Syrian refugees. He also insisted that more guns in the hands of civilians could have mitigated the tragedy.
Critics of Trump’s policies, however, have pointed out that the perpetrator of the Orlando massacre was born in the U.S. and that there was an armed security guard at the nightclub.