President Donald Trump hailed Missouri Republican Senate candidate Josh Hawley as a “star” Friday night, while lambasting the Democratic incumbent, Claire McCaskill, for opposing his “truly spectacular” Supreme Court nominee.
The president, as he often does for Republican candidates, attempted to boost Hawley, the state attorney general, by calling him onstage at the rally in Springfield, Missouri, to speak behind the presidential podium with the executive seal.
Hawley lauded Trump, including his appointment of “conservative” judges to federal courts “who love the Constitution … like Brett Kavanaugh.” The reference to the embattled Supreme Court nominee was the latest in a daylong campaign by the White House and prominent GOP lawmakers and candidates to push Kavanaugh on to the high court despite the emergence of sexual assault allegations dating to his high school years.
“Let me just ask you a question: How about the leadership of President Donald J. Trump?” Hawley asked the raucous crowd of Trump supporters to loud applause. “When he makes a commitment, he delivers. I tell you what, he’s delivering big for the state of Missouri and the United States of America. … And I mean big.”
Hawley also trumpeted the president’s immigration policies, including his proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall. When he mentioned the border barrier, the crowd erupted in cheers.
Hawley stayed onstage longer than other GOP candidates at Trump rallies, saying, “There’s someone who’s not been willing to work with the president … Claire McCaskill.”
“She hasn’t listened to you,” he told the audience. “She has mocked the president for wanting to build [the border wall].” He also said she wants to pass an “open border” bill and knocked her for opposing Kavanaugh.
McCaskill, who earlier this week announced she would vote against Kavanaugh on grounds unrelated to the sexual assault allegations, finds herself in a tight race for a third term. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the contest a Toss-up.
Trump dinged McCaskill for voting against the GOP tax overhaul bill. “We need some more Republicans. We need Josh,” the president said. “But he needs more Republicans.”
The president said she voted “no” on “enhanced vetting” for refugees because Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and other top Democrats told her to. Trump often alleges that Democratic incumbents and candidate would vote only how their leaders instruct them.
“As Josh said, she’s not going back on a ‘no’ vote on someone who’s truly spectacular, Brett,” Trump said, also alleging that McCaskill is out to take away Americans’ rights to own guns.
The president also debuted a new campaign-trail line, saying a vote for “any” Democrat was a “vote for radical socialism and open borders.” He worked to tie McCaskill to that line in his remarks as the crowd booed.
In a remarkable moment, the president made the midterms a referendum on his presidency. “You’re voting for me in 2018,” Trump said. “You’re voting for me.”
Trump ran straight at racial tensions, saying “Antifa” members have small bicep muscles and are “lucky we are peaceful.”
He slammed Democrats, saying they want to let in MS-13 gang members. “They probably should change their name. They’re not just extreme, but they’re dangerous,” he said of the other party. “They’re crazy. They’re crazy.”
“Crime and high taxes,” he said of his view of Democrats’ policies. And he appeared to question GOP leaders’ promise of a border wall funding fight after the midterms.
Trump took a swipe at former President Barack Obama, saying the country now has a “president who will never apologize for America.”
And he stoked the crowd into a frenzy when he mentioned “standing up for the national anthem,” alluding to his feud with some NFL players who have been kneeling as the song played to protest perceived social ills.
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