BALTIMORE — President Donald Trump told House Republicans gathered here Thursday for their annual conference retreat that he plans to campaign in more of their districts to help with their 2020 races.
“I’m going to stop at every community that I can. We’re going to make a list of 50 or so,” he said.
The remark came after Trump touted the success of his visit to North Carolina on the eve of Tuesday’s special elections, which saw Republicans Dan Bishop and Greg Murphy emerge victorious in the 9th and 3rd districts, respectively.
“We went into those communities, and they went out to vote like nobody’s ever seen before,” he said.
Earlier, Trump also gave shout-outs to Bishop and Murphy, who were present at the retreat, calling their wins “a great evening of television.”
The president served as the first keynote speaker for the retreat, which will run through Saturday morning. House Republicans will hear from Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday between policy-focused sessions.
As is common when he takes the stage in any setting, Trump touched on a wide array of topics, from the legislative accomplishments of his first few years in office to an overview of his 2016 win to digs at his potential 2020 opponents.
He began his remarks just two minutes past 8 p.m., perfect timing to serve as counter-programming to the Democratic presidential debate taking place in Houston. He received standing ovations when he talked about his policy initiatives, including rollbacks of environmental regulations and the 2017 tax law.
On taxes, Trump said he’s working on a middle-income tax cut that is “going to be very, very inspirational.”
“We’ll be announcing it sometime in the next year,” he said.
That would suggest Trump wants to release the proposal ahead of the 2020 election, but he made similar promises of a middle-income tax cut ahead of last year’s midterms that never materialized.
If Republicans take back the House and hold on to the Senate and the White House, Trump said they would complete a health care overhaul they were unable to get through in his first two years.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told reporters earlier Thursday that addressing the national debt would be his conference’s top priority if it retook the majority in 2020, but Trump did not mention that in his remarks.
Barely a nod to Baltimore
In his speech, Trump only made a passing reference to Baltimore, a place he had slammed in July as a “rodent-infested mess,” among other insults.
“We are going to fight for the future of cities like Baltimore that have been destroyed by decades of failed and corrupt rules,” he said.
While refraining from repeating his attacks on Baltimore — or apologizing for them — Trump did not hold back on insulting Democrats, including their three leading presidential candidates.
First up was Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders. “More than 130 Democrats in Congress have signed up for the Bernie Sanders total government takeover of health care. Crazy Bernie. He is a crazy guy,” Trump said.
“I hit Pocahontas too early,” Trump said, using his nickname for Warren. “I thought she was gone. She has emerged from the ashes, and now it looks like she could beat Sleepy Joe. He’s falling asleep, he has no idea what he is doing or saying.”
Trump also had New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on his mind. “I call her Cortez because you don’t have time to go through the whole name,” he said.
“Or I call her AOC. And I call the others AOC plus three,” he added, referring to Ocasio-Cortez and three other freshman congresswomen, collectively known as the “squad.”
Trump also made note of Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal proposal, which many Democrats have embraced. He warned Republicans not to spend too much time now attacking that plan or other progressive ideas and to reserve some fire for later.
“Let them go. Don’t criticize it too much, please,” he said. “Because one thing I’ve learned about politics, you can say something one day that’s just absolutely insane … and then about two weeks later, say the exact opposite, and no one will ever call you on it. … So I want to bring them way down the pike before we start criticizing the Green New Deal.”
While speaking about the Green New Deal, Trump took the opportunity to make an odd joke about McCarthy.
“No more cows, no more planes. I guess no more people, right?” he said of the proposal to eliminate carbon emissions. “Because Kevin is just like a cow; he’s just smaller. I had to pick someone for that one, Kevin, and I just looked at that beautiful, beautiful face of yours.”
Trump also took a jab at Speaker Nancy Pelosi when talking about his trade pact with Canada and Mexico.
“I told Nancy Pelosi — ‘Nancy, put it up for a vote. It’s going to be bipartisan. You can have all the credit you want. You have to do something other than try and impeach somebody that did not do anything wrong. You have to,’” he said.
As Trump concluded his speech, he thanked the gathered Republicans for a “good time” and offered a half-compliment: “I like most of you. I know all of you.”
Katherine Tully-McManus contributed to this report.