President Donald Trump took aim at familiar political targets and added a few fresh ones during a campaign-style rally Saturday night in an Upper Midwest state that gave him a surprising victory in the 2016 election.
Trump has been urging voters to support Republicans for Congress as a way of advancing his agenda. In his rally in Washington Township, he repeatedly pointed to Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan as one of the Democrats who needed to be voted out.
After saying Stabenow was standing in the way of protecting U.S. borders and had voted against tax cuts, Trump said: “And you people just keep putting her back again and again and again. It’s your fault.”
‘I know things about Tester’
Earlier Saturday, Trump tweeted criticism of Democratic Senator Jon Tester of Montana over his role in the failed nomination of White House doctor Ronny Jackson to run the Department of Veterans Affairs, calling for Tester to resign or at least not be re-elected this fall.
In his rally remarks, Trump railed against the allegations Tester aired against Jackson and suggested that he could take a similar tack against the senator.
“I know things about Tester that I could say, too. And if I said ’em, he’d never be elected again,” Trump said without elaborating.
As he has at similar events, Trump promoted top agenda items that energize grass-roots conservatives: appointing conservative judges, building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, ending “sanctuary cities” and protecting tax cuts approved by the Republican-led Congress. He also took credit for the warming relations between North and South Korea, telling his audience “we’ll see how it goes.”
Wall funding or a shutdown
Trump also threatened to shut down the federal government in September if Congress did not provide more funding to build a wall on the border with Mexico.
“That wall has started, we have 1.6 billion (dollars),” Trump said. “We come up again on September 28th and if we don’t get border security we will have no choice, we will close down the country because we need border security.”
Trump made a similar threat in March to push for changes in immigration law that he says would prevent criminals from entering the country. The government briefly shut down in January over immigration.
A $1.3 trillion spending bill, which Trump signed last month, will keep the government funded through the end of September. A government shutdown ahead of the November mid-elections is unlikely to be supported by his fellow Republicans who are keen to keep control of the U.S. Congress.
Trump chose a friendly venue for his rally, which not coincidentally came the same night as the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner. He skipped the dinner last year, too, and attending a rally in which he took time to attack the news media and assure his audience, as he did in Washington Township, about 40 miles north of Detroit, that he’d rather be with them.
Ahead of the rally Trump said in a fundraising pitch that he had come up with something better than being stuck in a room “with a bunch of fake news liberals who hate me.” He said he would rather spend the evening “with my favorite deplorables.”
During the 2016 campaign, Clinton drew laughs when she told supporters at a private fundraiser that half of Trump supporters could be lumped into a “basket of deplorables,” denouncing them as “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic, you name it.”
Clinton later did a partial rollback, said she had been “grossly generalistic” and regretted saying the label fit “half” of Trump’s supporters. But she didn’t back down from the general sentiment.
Trump soon had the video running in his campaign ads, and his supporters wore the “deplorable” label as a badge of honor.
White, blue-collar voters
Macomb County, the site of Trump’s rally, is among the predominantly white counties known as a base for “Reagan Democrats,” blue-collar voters who abandoned the Democratic Party for Ronald Reagan, but who can be intriguingly movable.
Democrat Barack Obama won the county twice in his White House runs, then Trump carried it by more than 11 percentage points.
Reuters contributed to this report.