An improbable 24 hours for Donald Trump and his campaign wrapped up Wednesday night with the Republican presidential nominee delivering a one-two punch to many of his critics and those who had written his campaign off for dead.
His much-watched speech on immigration, preceded by his meeting with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, gave Trump the unlikely chance to simultaneously cast himself as more presidential to undecided voters and yet even more fiery and unwavering to his base. And unless you're one of Hillary Clinton's most ardent supporters or a member of the fervently anti-Trump news media, it was quite clear he pulled it off.
Wednesday night's immigration speech by Trump was already going to be watched closely, at least by the media. But after the news frenzy surrounding the Mexican visit dominated the airwaves and the Internet for hours leading up to the speech, it turns out that millions more actual non-media pundit Americans actually watched the speech. And while they saw the same old bombastic Trump persona, they heard him deliver a better and more reasoned message and — this is crucial — they saw and heard it with their own eyes and ears and not through the mainstream media's filter. In short, Trump just tricked the media into letting it allow the public to actually hear his immigration message. And they heard it loud and clear.
Trump's unexpected invitation from Mexico's president turned into a quick meeting and respectful joint news conference that lent instant new credibility to the Trump campaign on both the immigration and foreign-policy issues. Forget about Trump, any non-incumbent presidential candidate is always challenged to look presidential and relevant among foreign leaders. That made the invitation from Peña Nieto pure gold all on its own. But the fact that it came from a man who recently compared Trump to Hitler and the visit occurred just before Trump was set to make this crucial speech was a stroke of luck any campaign would die for.
And then it was time for that speech, which turned out to be mostly about cracking down on criminals who also happen to be illegal immigrants. Say what you want about how Americans feel about peaceful people crossing the border illegally, but no clear-headed American wants more violent criminals coming into this country.