Donald Trump launched a racist attack on one black female Democratic congresswoman and said a Latino female congresswoman deals in a “line of crap" as he rallied supporters in Pennsylvania.
The President was trying to complete a comeback and again win a state some experts say his general election foe, former Vice President Joe Biden, must win in November to oust the president from power.
Mr Trump’s election strategy to secure a second term is almost exclusively about rebuilding the coalition that pushed him to victory four years ago, trying to ensure a massive conservative turnout in a handful of swing states to secure a second term. That means he has been sowing racially tinged warnings about Democrats and “rioters” and “anarchists.” He now trails the former VP by only about four points in the Keystone State – halving his margin in two months – as he has turned to a “law-and-order” message and stepped up his racial rhetoric.
Speaking outside another airport hangar with Air Force One as part of his backdrop, the president used his latest stop in the key swing state to deliver his usual rally remarks, making bold claims about his economic stewardship that some Democrats and economists have challenged. He again said his administration has done a “great” job combating the coronavirus, and slammed China. He oddly said he invented the term “hire American,” which has been used by politicians for decades.
He drew tepid laughter as he told stories about unnamed friends lavishing praise upon him, while launching personal attacks on Democrats in Congress and Mr Biden, whose lead in some a number of other swing states is dwindling. Mr Trump also called his five-woman shortlist to fill the newly vacant Supreme Court seat “brilliant” ahead of his Saturday announcement of the nominee.
“She’s telling us how to run our country. How did they do where you came from?” he said mockingly while referring to Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, who was born in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia. She came to the U.S. as an asylum seeker at age 12 and became a U.S. citizen when she was 17.
He also launched an attack on her during a campaign rally in her home state on Friday night, saying if Mr Biden is elected, he will set off a “flood” of Somali refugees and others from the “worst” places on Earth into their state. Mr Biden, however, has no such plan.
One of Ms Omar’s House “squad” colleagues, New York Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who is an increasingly influential voice in Democratic circles. She even appeared Sunday with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to discuss how the party would proceed with trying to delay or block Mr Trump’s coming conservative nominee to replace liberal icon Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court.
Some sources say Ms Ocasio-Cortez gets under the president’s skin. He channels any annoyance into getting loud boos from his rally crowds.
In Moon Township near the Steel City, Mr Trump claimed AOC is “not a good student.”
He alleged she is “not good at anything.”
Then came a new attack line that sent the crowd into a frenzy.
“But she's got a good line of crap, I'll tell you that,” he said. "She's got a hell of a lot. You know, she's radical left."
The president has waged a war of words with Ms Omar and Ms Ocasio-Cortez since even before they were sworn into office in January 2019. But he has stepped up his rhetoric since they joined the lower chamber, tweeting last summer they and other minority female legislators are not “capable of loving our country.”
At a campaign rally in North Carolina around the same time, his supporters chanted “send her back!” about Ms Omar. Even though three of the four lawmakers were born in the United States, Mr Trump in July 2019 tweeted this attack geared for his conservative base: “Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how it is done.”
The president almost daily tries to tie Mr Biden, considered center-left most of his nearly 50-year Washington career, as beholden to the progressive wing of his party.
For her part, Ms Ocasio-Cortez has called Mr Trump “unfit for office” and said he has committed “potentially law-breaking behavior.”
Mr Trump also made false and baseless comments about Democrats and Mr Biden’s policy proposals, including a charge that the entire Democratic Party has “joined forces” with “anti-police people” and “anarchists” and flag-burners.” That false claim came after he described Mr Biden as a hypocrite on fracking policy.
“Then, all of a sudden, he said, ‘Well, maybe we’ll have some fracking,’” Trump said of Mr Biden last week telling a town hall in Scranton, Pennsylvania, he has no plans to ban the energy extraction practice despite it causing pollution, sometimes large amounts. But the president claimed Mr Biden’s was a hollow promise.
“We know that won’t last, because of the radical left,” he said, repeating his charge that Mr Biden is beholden to his party’s progessive wing.
But that was eclipsed by this false claim: "It affects virtually nobody,” he said of the coronavirus, which has killed at least 200,000 people in the United States. Earlier Tuesday, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said the president deserves praise for that death toll because the administration expected the body count could have been as high as two million. (That was the first time an administration official had mentioned an estimate that high.)
He also used Covid-19 to take a dig at Mr Biden, suggesting the 77-year-old former VP would wear a mask next week during their first debate in Cleveland. “What the hell did he spend all that money on the plastic surgery if he’s going to cover it up?”, a chuckling Trump said. “I think he’ll come in with a mask. The question is: Will he leave it on during the debate?”
Notably, however, the much slimmer Democratic nominee has made fun of his foe’s physical looks.
“Thank God I am in good health,” Mr Biden told CNN, before taking a shot at his opponent:“Just look at us. … Who seems to be in shape? Who seems to be able to move around.”
The president was back in Pennsylvania for the eighth time this year and fourth time this month, including the second time in a week after last Tuesday's ABC town hall in Philadelphia saw him field some tough questions from undecided voters.
Political pollsters and strategists contacted by The Independent recently said the importance of the Keystone State cannot be minimised. That's because, as one Democratic pollster said, he already has penciled into the red column Florida and its 29 electoral votes. That means, experts said, Mr Biden must take Pennsylvania and its 20 Electoral College votes to have any path to the presidency.
Pollsters on both sides have warned against treating polls as gospel, a lesson from Mr Trump's stunning 2016 win over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who was up by statistically significant margins nationally and in each battleground state. Still, the polls in Pennsylvania for months had been relatively steady since even before Mr Biden secured the Democratic nomination, showing the former vice president with a healthy lead there.
Mr Biden led in the commonwealth by a comfortable 8.5 percentage points on July 24, according to RealClearPolitics' average of several voter surveys. That was tabulated in the thick of the president's turbulent summer during which his attorney general, William Barr, ordered federal police to use pepper balls and tear gas on US citizens so Mr Trump could hold a brief photo opportunity at a church near the White House during protests over racial inequality and police brutality. Mr Trump also was struggling to combat the coronavirus, but was in the midst of recalibrating his message to one calling on states to open and sports leagues to begin playing.
Two months later, apparently buoyed by his new "law-and-order" message, Mr Trump has cut into Mr Biden's lead and now is within the margins of errors of most polls, trailing by just 3.9 percent, according to RealClear.
The president seemed in high spirits in the Steel City, when he hit the stage at yet another airport hangar rally. That news came from a source that shows politics still creates strange bedfellows: Utah Republican Senator Mitt Romney. The former GOP presidential nominee announced he will not oppose Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham fast-tracking Mr Trump's coming Supreme Court nominee, even though it comes with just months left in the president's term. The fracas has Democrats in both chambers weighing all kinds of options, including another impeachment process to stall the Senate agenda and the nomination.
"These are procedures and decisions that are largely up to House Democratic leadership," Ms Ocasio-Cortez said Sunday. "But I believe that also we must consider, again, all of the tools available in our disposal and that all of these options should be entertained and on the table."
Two days later, Mr Trump roared “get out and vote” to his loyalists in western Pennsylvania before delivering a new line about Mr Biden: “My opponent is against oil, guns and god.” The crowd roared.