Looking to boost Republican Rep. Lou Barletta in his Pennsylvania Senate bid, President Donald Trump dismissed the Democratic incumbent Bob Casey at a rally Thursday as “Sleeping Bob,” calling him “overrated” and too controlled by his party’s leaders.
Trump called Barletta onstage near the start of the rally in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, calling him a “very special man” who has “been with me.”
“He’s running against somebody who’s so overrated,” the president said, referring to the incumbent Democrat and charging Casey with being "afraid" to debate his challenger. Should that happen, Trump said he wants to watch from the front row.
Trump reminded the audience he has been in office for a year and half, before saying dismissively, “I’m not sure I’ve ever met Bob Casey.”
Trump also came up with a new nickname for a political foe right on the stage, dubbing Casey “Sleeping Bob” after saying he might doze off if he had to talk about the senator, shortly after he launched several attacks on the media.
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Once behind the mic, Barletta credited the president for the “soaring” economy, which grew by 4.1 percent last quarter.
“There are more jobs now than people that are unemployed,” the GOP congressman said. “We’re not tired of winning, Mr. President. … Bob Casey wants to stop that.”
“He is so radical, he said ‘no’ to whoever President Trump picked for the Supreme Court,” Barletta roared to jeers from the crowd. “He gave us Obamacare. He supported sanctuary cities. He wants to take away your tax cuts.”
The president described Barletta a “dynamo” and Casey as “the opposite.”
Trump led off the rally by describing Pennsylvania’s steel industry as on its way back, saying his administration was “protecting” American workers. And he harked back to the rhetoric of his 2016 campaign messaging, which appealed to blue-collar workers in places like Pennsylvania: “The forgotten man and woman are forgotten no more.”
He also walked the friendly audience through election night in 2016, saying the “fake news … refused to call” the state for him and Mike Pence. At that point, the crowd chanted, “CNN sucks,” like another Trump rally crowd did Tuesday evening in Tampa, Florida. He blamed the media for allegedly refusing to put the state in his column, preventing Pennsylvania voters from putting him over the 270 electoral votes he needed. “Next time. Next time,” he said to applause.
The Pennsylvania Senate race is among a handful of competitive races with a Democratic incumbent that the White House and Republican Party leaders have circled in red as they mull how to retain control of the chamber. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence already have made stops in many of those states to tout the GOP candidate and ding the Democrat.
Trump and the Republican National Committee started their Thursday attacks on Casey — and touting Barletta — before the president had even departed the White House for the Keystone State.
Casey is “weak” and “ineffective,” Trump wrote in a tweet that also said Barletta “is tough and smart, loves PA and our Country!”
In a second tweet, the president declared that he is bringing “STEEL BACK in a VERY BIG way,” contending that numerous steel facilities are opening “all over the Country,” and that Barletta is “really helping!”
Around the same time, the RNC’s research arm blasted out an email dubbing the Democratic senator “Obstructionist Bob,” while saying he has “opposed President Trump at every opportunity.” The RNC described Casey as “remarkably ineffective,” questioned how many of his bills have been signed into law and criticized him for opposing both of Trump’s Supreme Court nominees. during his tenure.
“Casey has become an expert in the craft of partisan opposition,” the RNC said, “and knee-jerk obstructionism.”
It took Trump less than a half hour to begin bringing up other issues, as he often does as rallies that are touted as being chances for him to stump for GOP candidates. He dropped a mention of Hillary Clinton, referring to her by the derisive nickname he coined, “Crooked Hillary.”
The audience, many wearing “Make America Great Again” or other Trump-themed hats and shirts, recognized their cue. The broke out in the now-familiar chant: “Lock her up! Lock her up!”
"We're either getting it or we're closing down the government," the presidentsaid, referring to his threat to trigger a third federal funding lapse on his watch unless lawmakers meet his immigration and border wall funding demands.
He repeated his preference that a shutdown, if needed, happen before Election Day, but signaled a willingness to consider delaying it as many GOP members wish.