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Trump's pivot to health care takes a backseat at his first post-Mueller campaign rally

Key Points
  • President Donald Trump held his first campaign rally since special counsel Robert Mueller finished his investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.
  • Trump hammered his critics, railed against the media and pronounced, "The Russia hoax is finally dead. The collusion delusion is over."
  • It was evident Thursday that one topic had not yet managed to captivate Trump or his voters: The recently unveiled White House plan to make health care a centerpiece of Trump's 2020 campaign.
President Donald Trump speaks at a Make America Great Again rally in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, on Nov. 5, 2018. 
Jim Watson | AFP | Getty Images

President Donald Trump on Thursday held his first campaign rally since special counsel Robert Mueller finished his investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Over the course of more than an hour on stage in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Trump hammered his critics, railed against the media, and revisited familiar themes from his 2016 campaign, including immigration and trade.

Trump also introduced new topics, starting with the Mueller probe. "Robert Mueller was a god to the Democrats, until he said there was no collusion, " Trump said to cheers. "The Democrats now have to decide if they will continue to defraud the American public with this ridiculous bull---t," he added.

But while Trump's riffs on hot-button subjects like the Democratic "green new deal" energy proposal or late-term abortions electrified the crowd, one subject received decidedly fewer cheers than the others: The recently unveiled White House plan to make health care a centerpiece of the 2020 campaign.

Hours before the rally, Trump had tweeted that his party would become "the Party of Great Health Care," a line he repeated in Grand Rapids. And as he departed the White House on Marine One, Trump told reporters that Republicans were "working very hard" to "form a really great plan" to replace President Barack Obama's 2010 signature health-care law. He offered no details about what that might be.

According to a White House statement issued moments later, the GOP's eventual plan "will protect people with pre-existing conditions, lower prices for care and prescription drugs even further, end surprise medical bills, and make sure Americans get the absolute best quality of care."

But already on Thursday, it was evident that neither the Trump administration's latest legal challenge to Obamacare, nor congressional Republicans' long-shot odds of passing a replacement law through a Democratically controlled House, had yet managed to captivate Trump or his voters.

In Grand Rapids, Trump only spent about four minutes of his 80-plus-minute rally on the subject of health care. And even then, the crowd was more enthusiastic about booing the late Sen. John McCain — whose "no" vote doomed GOP efforts to repeal Obamacare in 2017— than it was about applauding Trump's pledge to protect health coverage for those with pre-existing conditions.

"We will get rid of Obamacare," Trump said about halfway through the rally. "And I said it the other day, the Republican party will become the party of great health care. It is good, it is important."

Rhetoric aside, it was unclear Thursday night who in the current Republican firmament would be willing to take up the mantle of health care. Between the White House and congressional Republicans, a verbal game of hot potato seemed to be taking place, with neither side wanting to assume primary responsibility for drafting a GOP replacement for the ten-year-old health-care law.

"We've put together a group of four or five [senators] … and they are going to work together and come up with something that's really spectacular," Trump said at the White House on Thursday afternoon.

But over on Capitol Hill, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., had a very different idea of who, exactly, would "come up with" an alternative to Obamacare. "I look forward to seeing what the president is proposing" McConnell told Politico. "And what he can work out with" Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.