On Tuesday, Feb. 4, President Donald Trump addressed the nation with an update on his administration’s plans for the future and delivered a summary of how he’s delivered on his campaign promises thus far. With First Lady Melania Trump watching on, the president kept his focus on re-election as he highlighted the strong economy and trade relations during his annual State of the Union address—and this year’s speech garnered arguably more attention than usual for a few different reasons.
While President Trump delivers the address every year, 2020’s edition was especially significant considering it fell one day before his expected acquittal in the Senate impeachment trial, which was pretty much a done deal after the Senate voted against calling any witnesses to the stand a week prior. This year’s State of the Union also was scheduled a day after the Iowa Caucuses, which traditionally gives insight into who the Democratic party’s challenger will be when Trump is up for re-election in November.
Despite the circumstances, the president went ahead with his address as planned, and he kept his focus on his campaign promises and administration’s agenda for the next four years if re-elected while serving up a few surprise moments. Considering that this year’s State of the Union address will be his final one before the presidential election, he didn’t hesitate to make multiple campaign pitches during his hour-long speech, which he dubbed “The Great American Comeback.”
Here are the four biggest takeaways from this year’s State of the Union:
1. He emphasized the strong U.S. economy, the job market, and trade deal victories during his speech.
President Trump claimed that the state of the union is “stronger than ever before” during his speech, using statistics about the growing economy and job market to stress his point and serve as a launchpad for his re-election campaign.
While the president’s foreign policy and immigration reform have come under scrutiny during his tenure, he leaned into his strong economic track record to highlight one of the strengths of his administration.
As he’s said before, the president revealed that not only is the overall rate of unemployment lower under his administration than under any previous one since Dwight D. Eisenhower, but that the rates for African Americans, Hispanics, and Asians are also the lowest they’ve ever been since the government began recording that information.
He also spoke at length about new trade deals that he’d drafted with Mexico, Canada, and China that would allow for a “much greater level of fairness and reciprocity.”
Looking forward, Trump highlighted restricting abortion access and illegal immigration, as well as expanding school choice, as a few of the big issues on his agenda.
2. Trump chose to omit any mention of impeachment.
With his acquittal on two articles of impeachment—abuse of power and obstruction of justice—expected the next day, President Trump notably didn’t allude to the ongoing impeachment saga even once during the speech.
While he didn’t make any mention of what he has called a “witch hunt” or the upcoming vote the next day, the event was very much a partisan affair. Democrats could be heard booing and chanting when the president slammed “Medicare for All” by saying “we will never let socialism take over health care.” They also began chanting HR 3 (in reference to Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act) when President Trump said he plans to lower drug costs and go head to head with pharmaceutical companies. The bill, which passed in the House but has yet to pass in the Senate, would do the same.
3. The tension between President Trump and Speaker of House Nancy Pelosi was palpable.
Speaking of partisan relations, things were notably chilly between President Trump and Pelosi. It was the first time that they had crossed paths and spoken since October, when the president reportedly called her a “third-grade politician” during a meeting about Syria. It was clear to the audience that their relationship had not improved since then.
Before beginning his address, Trump rebuffed her attempt to shake his hand. Pelosi could be seen shaking her head at various points of Trump’s address, and at the end, cameras caught her ripping up her copy of the president’s speech.
4. Rush Limbaugh got a surprise Presidential Medal of Freedom.
In an unprecedented move, President Trump paused his national address to award conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
The longtime host of The Rush Limbaugh Show, who has often been seen as a controversial figure, had announced one day earlier that he had been diagnosed with advanced lung cancer.
The Presidential Medal of Freedom, which has previously been awarded to Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, and Mother Teresa, honors individuals who “made exceptional contributions to the security or national interests of America, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”
“Here tonight is a special man, someone beloved by millions of Americans who just received a Stage 4 advanced cancer diagnosis. This is not good news, but what is good news is that he is the greatest fighter and winner that you will ever meet,” the president said as First Lady Melania Trump was instructed to affix the medal around Limbaugh’s neck. “I am proud to announce tonight that you will be receiving our country’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.”
With the culmination of the Senate impeachment trial expected on February 5, the president is putting that behind him and using his latest State of the Union address to kick off his re-election bid for 2020.