President Trump's Friday speech to the National Rifle Association (NRA) served as a homecoming to thank the group for standing by him through his campaign — and to keep his campaign going into 2020.
Trump used his appearance at the NRA's Leadership Forum in Atlanta to dismiss potential 2020 rival Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenBipartisan senators to hold hearing on 'toxic conservatorships' amid Britney Spears controversy Senate advances Biden consumer bureau pick after panel logjam White House faces increased cries from allies on Haitian migrants MORE (D-Mass.), with the familiar pejorative nickname "Pocahontas," a reference to her claim of Native American heritage.
And Trump touted Republican candidate Karen Handel, who is running in a closely watched June runoff election to represent a suburban Atlanta district once held by Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price. While Trump praised Handel for keeping Democrat Jon Ossoff from winning the all-party primary outright, Trump complained that too many Republicans had run in that contest and hurt one other's chances.
Trump also turned to his own election, riffing for a few minutes toward the beginning of his speech as he recounted winning 306 electoral votes. He named the states where he defeated Democrat Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGOP political operatives indicted over illegal campaign contribution from Russian national in 2016 Clinton lawyer's indictment reveals 'bag of tricks' Attorney charged in Durham investigation pleads not guilty MORE and accused Democrats and the media of trying to depress the vote by framing Clinton's election as an inevitability.
"Hundreds of times I heard 'there is no route to 270,' and we ended up with 306, so they were right," Trump said of the number of electoral votes he won.
"Big sports fans said that was the single most exciting event they've ever seen, that includes Super Bowls and World Series and boxing matches. It was an exciting evening for all of us, and it meant a lot.
Trump also used the speech to promise new federal cooperation with gun owners.
"The eight-year assault on your Second Amendment freedoms has come to a crashing end. You have a true friend and champion in the White House," Trump said.
"No longer will federal agencies be coming after law-abiding gun owners, no longer will the government be trying to undermine your rights and freedoms as Americans. Instead, we will work with you by your side."
Trump recounted his administration's efforts to ease restrictions on gun owners, including the end of a ban on hunting with lead bullets in certain national parks. Noting that he's the first sitting president since Ronald Reagan to address the forum, Trump thanked the NRA for its endorsement after the GOP primaries.
"You came through for me, and I am going to come through for you," Trump said.
"I will never, ever, let you down."
And he connected gun rights to the larger fight to tighten America's borders and keep the country safe from terrorism.
Trump also noted his choppy relationship with Texas Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzSchumer moves to break GOP blockade on Biden's State picks Bipartisan senators to hold hearing on 'toxic conservatorships' amid Britney Spears controversy GOP senators seek to block dishonorable discharges for unvaccinated troops MORE (R) during the primary campaign. While the two started off amicably, Trump eventually tied Cruz's father to the assassination of former President John F. Kennedy and retweeted a message mocking Cruz's wife's appearance.
Cruz refused to endorse Trump during his speech at the Republican National Convention but later backed him.
"We are also joined by two people that — one I loved right from the beginning, one I really liked, didn’t like, and now I like a lot again. Does that make sense?" Trump told the crowd, referencing Cruz's attendance at the event.
"Sen. David Perdue [R-Ga.], he was from the beginning, and Sen. Ted Cruz: like, dislike, like.”