After a week of questioning about his administration’s ties to Russia and a staffer’s resignation, President Donald Trump should find himself in friendlier territory Friday in South Carolina.
Trump will visit Boeing in North Charleston for the roll-out of the first stretched version of the 787 Dreamliner. There, the president is expected to thank S.C. voters and their new governor, Henry McMaster, for helping him win the White House.
But more importantly, Trump will be able to bask in Boeing’s success, shifting the news cycle back to jobs and the economy – his top campaign priorities – while temporarily escaping Washington where he, his Cabinet picks and his aides have been embroiled in daily controversies.
“He's got to want to get out of Washington,” said Winthrop University political scientist Karen Kedrowski. “He's also trying to change the narrative.
“The longer he stays in Washington, the longer it's about the leaks and the bureaucracy and the National Park Service leading the resistance. He wants to have a story where he's looking very effective, and he feels comfortable in a business setting.”
Trump also may bring Boeing good news.
The president is expected to make an announcement about the U.S. Export-Import Bank, which helps Boeing sell airplanes overseas. The bank’s lending has been limited because of a vacancy on its board. Once critical of the bank as an example of corporate crony capitalism, Trump reportedly has had a change of heart.
The visit also marks a chance for Trump to smooth over a rocky start with Boeing, a major U.S. employer and exporter.
During the campaign, Trump predicted Boeing would move jobs to China. In December, he complained on Twitter about “out of control” costs for two 747s that Boeing is building for future presidents.
Trump also could try to claim some of the company’s glory for his own.
Trump has taken credit for convincing companies not to move jobs overseas, facing questions afterward about his real influence. After Trump claimed to have saved jobs at a Carrier plant in Indiana, for example, a union leader accused Trump of inflating the number of jobs saved.
If the new president tries to take credit for Boeing’s success, it will be with little standing, observers say.
“The seeds for (Boeing’s success) were laid long before Trump was an official candidate for the presidency,” College of Charleston political scientist Gibbs Knotts said.
But the Boeing stage allows Trump to get back to the message he pushed on the campaign trail.
“He talked a lot about bringing back manufacturing jobs, making things in the United States, and revitalizing the U.S. economy,” Knotts said.
Trump can use Boeing’s success as an example of what he would like to see happen around the country – companies making an investment in the United States and offering good-paying jobs, the College of Charleston political scientist said.
Trump’s visit also follows Wednesday’s vote by Boeing employees to reject union representation.
But Trump may be “walking a tight rope” between the pro-business and pro-worker promises he made during the campaign if he brings up the union vote, Knotts said.
“A lot of the union leaders spoke out against Trump, but in the Rust Belt, where there is some strong union leadership, he was popular among the rank-and-file union workers.”
President Trump’s Boeing stop
President Donald Trump returns to South Carolina on his first visit as president. Five things to watch for during his Friday visit:
Protests. Trump’s critics are organizing protests. “Indivisible Charleston” will hold a rally at the North Charleston Coliseum protesting the president, the S.C. Democratic Party said.
A thank you. S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster, who will join Trump at the Boeing event, was the first statewide elected official in the nation to endorse Trump. Expect Trump to thank McMaster – and S.C. voters – for helping the billionaire reality-TV star win the state’s critical Republican primary.
A win for Boeing’s banking. Trump’s support for the federally subsidized Export-Import Bank would win praise from S.C. leaders. The bank is supported by most of South Carolina’s congressional delegation, including U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, who wants to see its lending powers restored.
But Trump also has bank opponents nearby. Now-former U.S. Rep. Mick Mulvaney, confirmed Thursday as Trump’s federal budget director, has criticized the bank as an example of crony capitalism, saying it should be a “lender of last resort” for businesses that need U.S.-backed financing, not mega-companies like Boeing.
Mention of Emanuel AME. Among those who will be present will be the Rev. Eric Manning of Emanuel AME Church, where nine members were slain in 2015 by a racist gunman. Others attending will include Columbia’s Charles B. Jackson Sr., pastor of Brookland Baptist Church, and Boeing chief executive Dennis Muilenburg.
Heading South. Trump’s plane likely will be pointing south on the tarmac. The president is spending a third-straight weekend at Mar-a-Lago, his Florida resort that he has dubbed his “winter White House.”
SOURCES: Bloomberg News, the Palm Beach Post and McClatchy D.C. contributed.