President Donald Trump on Friday flew 800 miles aboard Air Force One to the doorstep of the hotly contested Alabama Senate race, but addressed it directly for just over three minutes.
In a way, however, by using his remarks in Pensacola, Florida, to discuss his agenda and issues that matter to conservative voters just over the border in Alabama, the president sent a message: A vote for GOP candidate Roy Moore is vote for what he calls his “make America great again” agenda.
On Friday morning, Trump gave his clearest endorsement yet to Moore, who has been accused of molesting teenage girls and acting inappropriately with others. The president ended a tweet about the race with this: “VOTE ROY MOORE!”
About 12 hours later, he verbalized that electronic endorsement.
He told the Pensacola crowd — and those watching in Alabama on television — that Democratic candidate Doug Jones would be a “puppet” of Democratic leadership. He cited his Supreme Court pick, conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch, and other conservative policy goals.
He said the country could not afford a “liberal” claiming the seat that was vacated when longtime Alabama GOP Sen. Jeff Sessions became attorney general.
“We want jobs, jobs, jobs,” Trump said. “So get out and vote for Roy Moore. Do it. Do it.”
Those in attendance, which television cameras showed were decked out in Trump campaign gear, roared its approval.
Trump said Moore, if elected, would be “tough on crime,” strong on immigration, and in favor of building his proposed southern border wall and helping military veterans. Jones, he said, would be weak on each of those issues.
Going into the final days of the race, both campaigns are working to turn out their voters. Though a snowstorm slowed led to some cancellations for Jones events, the Jones team is planning a handful of events over the weekend.
Jones is getting some help from allies like to help turn out voters, particularly African-Americans, who are key to the Democratic base in Alabama. Democratic Rep. Terri Sewell, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick are expected at events over the weekend. Jones is expected to attend a concert in Birmingham Saturday, according to AL.com.
Moore’s next expected public appearance is expected on Monday at a “Drain the Swamp” rally in Midland City, Alabama. His last public appearance was Dec. 5 at a rally with White House adviser Steve Bannon.
Moore did not attend Trump’s rally in Florida, and a campaign spokesperson declined to comment on whether Moore would be watching.
Going into the final days of the race, both campaigns are working to turn out their voters even as a snowstorm hit the Yellowhammer State. The Jones team is planning a handful of events over the weekend.
But Moore’s twitter account was active during the rally, tweeting quotes of Trump’s endorsement.
“We need somebody in that Senate seat who will vote for our Make America Great again agenda which involves tough on crime, stong on borders, strong on immigration, building the wall, strengthening our military and continuing our great fight for our veterans.” — President Trump
— Judge Roy Moore (@MooreSenate) December 9, 2017
“Get out and vote for Roy Moore.”
— President Trump
— Judge Roy Moore (@MooreSenate) December 9, 2017
Trump used most of the rally to hit on many of the themes that propelled him to the White House and compose the base of his domestic agenda. And he repeatedly hammered his 2016 general election foe, Hillary Clinton, who is wildly unpopular in the Deep South.
Immigration was one of the red-meat issues he kept coming back to.
Trump promised the crowd that “we’re gonna have the [border] wall. Don’t worry.” The friendly crowd then erupted in a “build the wall!” chant. The president said chain migration policies might have allowed the New York City truck attacker was able to get 22 to 24 other people into the country. “We have to end chain migration,” he said.
And he called on Democrats to cease their “obstruction” and get rid of so-called sanctuary cities. “Stop the carnage,” he said, suggesting those places are incubators of crime.
Trump boasted of his first 10 months, touting regulations his administration has terminated, the “all-time record high level” of the stock market, while also promising that he and GOP lawmakers soon would complete work on a tax overhaul then address the 2010 health law.
“We’re on the verge of passing that wonderful, beautiful tax cut,” Trump declared.
Notably, however, the audience did not always play along. For instance, when Trump asked if their health insurance premiums are through the roof due to Barack Obama’s law, they remained silent.
With government funding now set to expire on Dec. 22, he urged lawmakers to send him a “clean” spending bill that fully funds the Defense Department for fiscal 2018, appearing to say he wants it free of immigration provisions. “We can’t play games anymore,” he said of global threats that Republicans say make a bigger military budget necessary.
While Trump did talk policy — at least broadly — more than during previous campaign-style rallies, there were plenty of vintage Trump rally moments.
He mocked members of the so-called “Resistance” movement, using a high-pitched voice while meekly holding up a pretend protest sign. When he appeared to spot a sign in front of the stage, he said “I love you” to a group he described as “Blacks for Trump.”
He used that moment to tell the audience that homeownership rates among African-Americans is at its highest level ever. “Congratulations,” he said as the crowd broke into a “Blacks for Trump!” chant.
Then it was back to the “Resistance” movement and his 2016 opponent.
“Hillary resisted and you know what happened? She lost the election in a landslide,” the president said. “You know what they’re resisting? They’re resisting the will of the American people.”
The Florida panhandle crowd responded with the chant his 2016 campaign made famous: “Lock her up! Lock her up!”
In a scene not typical for presidential events, fake snow fell on the crowd from the rafters of the Pensacola Bay Center after Trump concluded his remarks.
None appeared to land on Trump’s signature dark suit, however.
Bridget Bowman reported from Montgomery, Alabama.