President Donald Trump ramped up his pre-midterm rhetoric at a rally Saturday in Big Sky Country, claiming that if Democrats do poorly in Tuesday’s elections, they will simply “blame Russia.”
His final-days campaign swing also has featured provocative comments about immigration, the economy and Democrats — and a litany of false statements. In October alone, the Washington Post's Fact Checker staff found he said over 1,000 false or misleading statements; CNN calculated he uttered 81 false statements at a rally this week alone. It’s all part of his strategy to rev up his conservative base to drive up Republican vote counts in key districts and states.
Most political forecasters see Democrats taking control of the House and the Republicans picking up one or more seats in a split-decision election. But many had long predicted a “blue wave” and have been revising their predictions with fewer Democratic pick-ups as polls show what Trump call the GOP’s late “great momentum.”
Standing before a rally crowd, many clad in red “Make America Great Again” gear with Air Force One and the Rocky Mountains in the background, the president boasted about the health of the economy under his watch.
“How do they counter that? They’ll think of something like .... Russia. Let’s blame Russia,” Trump said as the crowd cheered.” He was referring to Moscow's 2016 election meddling, which the Justice Department and Senate Intelligence Committee are still investigating; the president again called the DOJ probe a “hoax” on Saturday.
Trump is mostly focusing on Senate and gubernatorial races during his final midterms push, expressing greater and greater confidence that his immigration- and bash-Democrats strategy will get out the GOP vote. He’s banking his appearances in battleground states will drive up Republican turnout and tilt key races to his party.
“If crowds mean anything,” he declared, “we’re going to have a great Tuesday.”
Watch: Trump Aims to Seal the Deal — Or Mitigate GOP Losses — With Rally Blitz
Trump is in Montana as he tries to help state Auditor Matt Rosendale defeat incumbent Democratic Sen. Jon Tester. The duo has been locked in a tight race for months.
He hit some familiar themes, falsely claiming Democrats want to “impose socialism” and "invite caravan after caravan of illegal aliens ... into our country. And he warned two such groups heading for the U.S.-Mexico border is full of “bad hombres.”
“The Democrats only believe in defending the borders of foreign countries,” he charged. “Republicans believe we must defend our borders.”
The president said a GOP-run Congress means “more jobs” and “less crime,” but Democrats would kill jobs and foster more criminals.
Trump took Air Force One from Indianapolis, where he held the second of two Friday rallies, to Belgrade in southwest Montana. Inside Elections with Nathan Gonzales rates the race Tilt Democratic. Several polls, when averaged, give Tester just over a 4 percentage point lead.
For the president, who has visited the state to weigh in on the race several times, this one is personal. That’s because he still holds a grudge against Tester over the failed nomination of Ronny Jackson, a Navy rear admiral and the president’s former military physician, to become Veterans Affairs secretary. Tester brought to public light allegations from whistleblowers about questionable management and conduct against Jackson that led to his decision to step aside.
He again criticized Tester over the matter, saying the senator “tried to destroy” Jackson. “It was false.”
On the road again
Trump is in the fourth day of a six-day final midterms barnstorming push that will take him to eight battleground states, jetting all over the country from Florida to Missouri to Big Sky Country. He has made immigration the foundation of his closing pitch to voters during his barnstorming tour — using racial code words and the powers of the presidency along the way.
In recent weeks, he has told reporters he sees the issue as a winning one for his party. He has ratcheted up his rhetoric this week about two Central American migrant caravans approaching the U.S.-Mexico border this week, saying they contain dangerous criminals — his campaign issued an ad depicted some migrants as cop-killers. He has warned the migrants to avoid throwing rocks at U.S. border security and military personnel, saying they will treat projectile stones as “firearms.”
At a Friday rally in West Virginia, he mocked existing immigration laws, saying his staff tells him certain things would be illegal, but the existing canon is “crazy.” And he said the immigration issue should help GOP candidates because, in his view, Washington Democrats “overplayed their hand.”
Trump has used his final-days push to describe the midterms as a “choice between jobs and mobs,” saying repeatedly Democrats have gone “crazy.”
Trump accused Tester of saying one thing when he's home but just following the orders of Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer. He several times called the New York lawmaker "“Cryin’ Chuck.” The crowd chuckled each time.
When the president a few minutes later again mentioned Schumer, this time by his last name, an audience member yelled: “Cry baby!”
Trump got more applause when he noted he has ordered active-duty military troops to the U.S.-Mexico border, but he did not tell the crowd they are largely logistical and other support forces — not combat ones.
“Barbed wire used properly can be a beautiful sight,” Trump said of military troops installing some along the border in another example of his sharper and sharper rhetoric as Election Day nears.
Without pointing to specific legislation, Trump warned Democrats in power would install “taxes like you've never seen before” to fund a “socialist takeover.” He also did not bring up his veto power, which could block any such bill.