Updated 8:34 p.m. | President Donald Trump led off a midterm campaign rally in Florida on Wednesday by blaming the “far-left media” for exploiting the Pittsburgh synagogue mass shooting to hurt him and Republicans as the elections near.
“They did everything in their power to … push people apart,” he told the crowd in Fort Myers. “It was fake and it was make-believe. … The far-left media has spread lies and misinformation about the Trump administration.”
“They want to stoke resentment,” he said of the media, whom he also referred to as “the enemy of the people.” Earlier this week, Trump said he only uses the term for outlets that publish or air stories that are embellished or untrue.
Notably, the president did not criticize or name any of the Democratic officials — including those who could seek the presidency in 2020 — after a Florida man allegedly sent pipe bombs to several of them last week before he was arrested.
President Trump’s Halloween Rally in Florida
Trump is focusing his final-days push on Midwestern and Mid-Southern states — but Florida is the exception as he will make two stops there in the race’s final six days. He will return for a Saturday evening rally in Pensacola, underscoring how badly Trump and GOP leaders want to win the Senate and governor’s races there.
Trump began Wednesday night’s rally aiming to give a boost to Gov. Rick Scott as he tries to oust incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.
He called Scott an “unbelievable talent” who always “calls up with incredible news,” lauding the Senate candidate for his response to several hurricanes in the state. He said a Sen. Scott would “keep the Florida [economic] boom in full swing.”
Trump also tied Nelson to “radical” congressional Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Charles E. Schumer. He also said Nelson is for “open borders,” a false claim he makes about every Democratic candidate.
Taking the presidential podium, Scott praised Trump for his hurricane response efforts, saying the chief executive pledges to “do whatever you want.”
The crowd responded with a chant: “Trump! Trump! Trump!”
Scott hammered Nelson for being in office so long and voting against the GOP tax law that Trump signed last December. He also hit the incumbent for, allegedly, helping add to the federal deficit. (Fact check: Nonpartisan experts say the Republican tax overhaul will spike the deficit.)
Trump is also stumping for former GOP Rep. Ron DeSantis, who is trying to defeat Tallahassee Democratic Mayor Andrew Gillum in the Sunshine State’s governor’s race. On Monday morning, Trump called Gillum a “thief” in a tweet.
In Florida there is a choice between a Harvard/Yale educated man named @RonDeSantisFL who has been a great Congressman and will be a great Governor – and a Dem who is a thief and who is Mayor of poorly run Tallahassee, said to be one of the most corrupt cities in the Country!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 29, 2018
Speaking to the Fort Myers crowd, DeSantis painted Gillum as a possible criminal, saying, “I’m the only guy who’s not under investigation by the FBI.” Gillum has said he is not the target of an FBI investigation into corruption in Tallahassee, though he is under a state ethics probe for trips taken as mayor.
“Andrew Gillum is a failed mayor,” DeSantis said, claiming under his opponent’s watch, Tallahassee has the highest murder rate in the state’s history.
DeSantis also tried to chain Gillum to Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, saying the duo wants to take from the wallets of Americans to fund a government-run, single-payer health care system.
The crowd chanted, “Lock him up,” as DeSantis accused Gillum of multiple crimes — without providing evidence.
More red meat
Trump told rallygoers “Rick and Ron” would win next week. At one point, he said the midterms may not be as important as the 2016 election that put him in the White House — he called “movement” that delivered him to the White House the “greatest” in American history. But Tuesday’s outcomes will determine whether the president’s envisioned domestic agenda is possible and whether House Democrats will gain investigative, and subpoena, powers to probe his presidency.
The crowd responded by chanting “Build The Wall,” prompting Trump to say two Central American migrant caravans will be stopped before illegally stepping foot on American soil. He has made those approaching groups perhaps the defining issue for undecided voters — or ones who are unsure whether they will get to the polls.
Trump called Gillum “too extreme for the people of Florida,” claimed he would impose a “socialist” health care system and said he was “too weak” on immigration and crime. To cheers, the president — a real estate tycoon — noted that he has properties in Florida but he “never sees Sen. Nelson.”
Trump then turned to the issue of birthright citizenship under the 14th Amendment, something he called “crazy” while alleging that it costs American taxpayers “billions” each year. He did not provide legal or budgetary evidence. He slammed so-called birth tourism, saying pregnant undocumented migrants are not subject to the U.S. Constitution.
The crowd roared and chanted, “U-S-A, U-S-A.” But legal scholars are split on the matter, and overturning the amendment would require support from wide majorities in the House and Senate — and there’s no legal consensus on Trump’s claim he could end “birthright citizenship” through the powers of the presidency.