President Declares the Winner of the Democratic Debate: Donald Trump

LAS VEGAS — Flying to Las Vegas from Phoenix on Wednesday night on Air Force One, President Trump was glued to the Democratic presidential primary debate.

He liked what he saw, and on Thursday morning, as strategists and pundits sifted through the aftermath, the president tweeted out his conclusion.

“‘The real winner last night was Donald Trump,’” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter, quoting Michael R. Bloomberg’s remarks to a group of supporters. “Mini Mike Bloomberg. I agree!”

Though a spate of recent polls show the president faring badly against possible Democratic opponents, including Mr. Bloomberg and Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Mr. Trump and his advisers say the contentious debate left them feeling bullish about the president’s re-election prospects, especially with the impeachment phase of his presidency behind him.

And at an event on Thursday morning, Mr. Trump seemed to marvel that impeachment had happened at all.

“I didn’t do anything wrong and they impeached me a few weeks ago,” he told a group of people at a criminal justice overhaul event in Las Vegas. “I said: ‘What happened? What did I do?’ The good news, my numbers went through the roof.”

As he continued his four-day West Coast swing, Mr. Trump was preparing for his second “Keep America Great” rally in two nights — this one in Colorado Springs, where he was expected to try to bolster the fortunes of Senator Cory Gardner, a vulnerable Republican up for re-election in a state that is trending increasingly liberal.

Democrats have pointed out that the president’s track record on lending support to embattled candidates is mixed at best. But Mr. Trump is practiced at trying to turn any anti-Trump words spoken by Democrats against them, as he did when he paid particular attention to remarks that Mr. Bloomberg delivered to supporters on Thursday morning at an event in Salt Lake City.

“Look, the real winner in the debate last night was Donald Trump because I worry that we may be on the way to nominating somebody who cannot win in November,” Mr. Bloomberg said. “If we choose a candidate who appeals to a small base, like Senator Sanders, it will be a fatal error.”

Mr. Bloomberg’s somewhat chastened reaction was the cherry on top for the president, who will spend the rest of his time in the West making his case for re-election.

“America likes winners, not whiners,” Kellyanne Conway, a counselor to the president and a former Trump campaign manager, said of his post-debate confidence. “President Trump has survived every petty, partisan, pathetic attempt to remove him from office and is well positioned to do it one more time: on Election Day.”

Donald Trump Jr., Mr. Trump’s eldest son and a campaign surrogate who watched the debate aboard Air Force One with his father, said that Mr. Bloomberg’s performance amounted to a “great night” for his father.

“Bloomberg was the victim of a political homicide and was clearly not prepared for the onslaught coming his way at the debate,” Donald Trump Jr. said in remarks relayed through a spokesman. “If he can’t handle Grandpa Joe or Pocahontas on the debate stage, what makes anyone think he can handle Trump?”

Before leaving Las Vegas, Mr. Trump traveled to the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, where he delivered a commencement address for a program for former offenders — but not before turning the event into a mini-rally in which he attacked the F.B.I. and Hillary Clinton and commented about the sentencing of Roger J. Stone Jr., a onetime political adviser.

Mr. Trump, who approved a slate of pardons and sentence commutations this week, told the crowd that he wanted to see the sentencing process play out but believed that Mr. Stone would be exonerated. Mr. Stone was sentenced to 40 months in prison for obstructing a congressional inquiry in a bid to protect the president.

“At some point, I’ll make a determination,” Mr. Trump said. “But Roger Stone and everybody has to be treated fairly. And this has not been a fair process.”

The White House has sought to make an overhaul of the criminal justice system one of the central selling points to the president’s re-election, using it as proof that he is interested in issues that are important to both moderates and Democrats.

“I passed criminal justice reform, not the Democrats,” Mr. Trump told supporters on Wednesday evening at his rally in Phoenix. “I did it with the Republicans, and this could not have been done by anybody but me and the Republican Party. The Democrats did not do it. They could never have done it.”

Annie Karni contributed reporting from Wichita Falls, Texas.


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