Trump Hails ‘Nasty Looking’ Border Wire in Stump for Hyde-Smith

President tries to keep Mississippi Senate seat in GOP hands

Among the many things Stu Rothenberg says he is tired of? President Donald Trump and his rallies. (George LeVines/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Among the many things Stu Rothenberg says he is tired of? President Donald Trump and his rallies. (George LeVines/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted November 26, 2018 at 6:22pm

President Donald Trump fired up a Mississippi rally crowd Monday by referring to barbed-wire fences erected by military troops along the U.S.-Mexico border as “pretty nasty.”

He also ignored General Motors announcing it intends to stop production of several models of automobiles in Ohio, Michigan and Maryland, instead claiming “many” companies are “negotiating to come back in.” He also contended, despite the GM news, that jobs are “coming into Mississippi — and everywhere else, by the way.”

The president, back on the campaign trail where he is so comfortable, extolled the barbed-wire fencing along part of the southern border as “nasty looking wire” as he warned migrants they must come into the U.S. legally and “through merit.”

He blamed countries in Central and South America for large flows of migrants trying to reach and enter the United States. “They’re not putting their best in there, right?” he said. “They’re not putting Elvis.”

Rock and roll legend Elvis Presley was born in Tupelo, Mississippi, where the president held the first of two rallies to boost Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith as she makes her eleventh-hour pitch to voters ahead of a run-off on Tuesday. Trump dubbed Hyde-Smith a “special woman,” with Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., taking the podium to tell the audience she helped the president and Senate Republicans in the partisan contest over Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination.

When it was her time to speak, Hyde-Smith described herself as a true conservative and urged the crowd to send a text message to “everybody in your phone” to go vote for her on Tuesday.

“I am asking all Mississippians to give me your vote tomorrow so I can … protect our conservative values,” she said.

“Wow,” Trump said of her remarks as the crowd chanted “U-S-A!”

Trump is slated to hold another rally Biloxi later Monday night.

When voters return to the polls on Tuesday, Hyde-Smith will face former Democratic Rep. Mike Espy in the special election runoff after neither cleared 50 percent in the Nov. 6 jungle primary, which saw two Republicans and two Democrats run together on the same ballot. Hyde-Smith was appointed to the seat in April after GOP Sen. Thad Cochran resigned for health reasons. The special election winner gets to serve out the final two years of Cochran’s term.

Trump dubbed Espy a “far-left” member beholden to congressional Democratic leaders, all of whom are very unpopular in Mississippi and other Deep South states that are the foundation of the president’s conservative base. He painted Democrats as a party of “caravans and crime,” a reference to the groups of Central American migrants he turned into a midterm issue and the criminal acts he claims — without evidence or supporting data — would follow the groups into the U.S. if allowed to cross the border and stay.

Hyde-Smith found national headlines in recent weeks after the release of videos showing her making controversial remarks.

In one, she’s heard saying she’d be “on the front row” if invited by a supporter to a public hanging. In another, she indicated support for making it “just a little more difficult” for liberal college students to vote. Her campaign has called the first remarks “an exaggerated expression of regard” for the supporter and said the latter comments were made in jest. She has said the former comments were “twisted” to be used against her.

She also reportedly has advocated pro-Confederacy policies. Some corporations have requested her campaign return thousands of dollars in donations. But none of that has bothered the president, who in recent days has praised the senator.

“She is an outstanding person who is strong on the Border, Crime, Military, our great Vets, Healthcare & the 2nd A. Needed in D.C.,” he tweeted Sunday.

The Mississippi runoff gives Trump another chance to get back on the campaign trail after his frustrations with the media’s coverage of the midterms, which saw Republicans lose control of the House while likely picking up two seats to expand their narrow Senate majority.

The president has painted the midterms as a success, pointing to the Senate gains, while arguing that previous presidents lost more House seats. He has also bragged about campaigning for 10 GOP candidates, saying he helped nine of them win.

Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the Mississippi special Senate election run-off as Likely Republican.