WASHINGTON — For President Donald Trump, the 2016 election is never far from his mind.
When he met with a group of sheriffs from around the country in the White House on Tuesday, Trump saw not just lawmen but battleground states. In short order he was talking about his victories with officials from Pennsylvania and North Carolina. And when a sheriff from Minnesota introduced himself, the new president mused about what could have been in a state that hasn’t supported a Republican presidential candidate since Richard Nixon in 1972.
“You know, we weren’t supposed to do very well in your state and we lost by 1 point,” Trump said. “I say if I went there one more visit, we would have won — we would have won Minnesota.”
More than two weeks into his presidency, the president is still fixated on the last fight. Many of his public comments include references to his election performance. At times, the comments appear to be light and boastful. In other moments, he’s awkwardly interjecting election talk at forums that are decidedly apolitical.
At the U.S. Central Command in Florida on Monday, the new commander in chief opened his remarks by telling a group of military officials and troops, “We had a wonderful election, didn’t we? And I saw those numbers and you like me and I like you.”
After a wide-ranging meeting with Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, on Tuesday, the congressman said they also talked about the size of Trump’s victory in Utah “for a moment.”
“I said, ‘Yeah, you did well in Utah, Mr. President,'” Chaffetz said.
Trump won the Electoral College vote by a comfortable margin but lost the popular vote by nearly 2.9 million votes to Democrat Hillary Clinton, metrics that continue to come up in conversations at the start of his administration.
In his first meeting with Republican and Democratic congressional leaders, Trump asserted that between 3 million and 5 million illegal votes were cast in the election. There is no evidence of widespread voter fraud, but Trump has since called for a “major investigation” and tasked Vice President Mike Pence with heading up a commission to review it.
Last week, during a separate meeting with lawmakers to discuss trade policy, Trump pointed to his support among voters who backed Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary.
For Trump, the campaign talk appears to serve as an easy ice-breaker to connect with visitors. It may also be a habit of a relentless self-promoter, a hangover from his months on the campaign trail. What’s clear is the new president is eager to get a daily dose of validation, even now that he’s off the stump.
Tuesday’s meeting included lengthy remarks on Trump’s support for law enforcement and the sheriffs’ appreciation of his willingness to meet with them.
“People in uniform tend to like me,” the president said. “The numbers were staggering.”
Associated Press writers Vivian Salama and Matthew Daly contributed to this report.