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If only Trump would do that more often

 Last week, President Trump stood before a joint session of Congress and touted the economic successes of his term so far. He embraced reasonable conservative positions with broad backing. He pointed out the opposition’s recent excesses on abortion and its frightening drift toward the ruinous ideology of socialism.

Trump argued for diplomacy and for an end to the wars in which America is currently involved. He did all this with an understated tone and a smile on his face, which has been a rare sight in recent months. The magnanimous image that Trump projected was enough to make Stacey Abrams’ partisan response seem small and factually challenged (“plants are closing, layoffs are looming”) in comparison.

If Trump could only show this side of himself more often, he’d have a 57 percent approval rating today, instead of 57 percent disapproval. He has his own undisciplined messaging and Twitter habits to blame for his current political situation. But he also showed Tuesday night that he possesses the skills to change the game in his favor. If he can show the sort of restraint and discipline that made his State of the Union speech great, he will drastically advance his cause as he seeks re-election over the next two years.

 Democrats made much of Trump’s work easy. In the last two weeks, they have overtly embraced an objectively horrific position on abortion-until-birth that only 13 percent of the public agrees with. Their party has also been lurching toward socialism at a very inopportune time, even as that failed ideology has brought the nearby nation of Venezuela to its knees. New Democrats in Congress (two of them in particular) have also embraced and propagated anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, a point that Trump was quick to bring up as well.

Trump connected all of these dots with ease as he made his case to the public. It might have been the best speech of his presidency so far.

Trump also made some strong bipartisan points, including his discussion of prison reform and an infrastructure package. And he found the Democrats very easy to co-opt. As the Washington Examiner’s Becket Adams pointed out, all he had to do was stroke their egos with a nod to the unprecedented number of female legislators elected in 2018 to get them to their feet. This was a small matter, but with this gesture, Trump won an incalculable public relations victory. That’s all it took for Democrats to act like his presidency is legitimate, for a change.

Trump has about 20 months before he faces the voters once again. If he wants to remain president beyond 2020, he needs to study what he did right Tuesday night and stick with it.

This editorial first appeared in the Washingtin Examiner.