Trump rails against Dems at Pennsylvania rally as Hurricane Michael batters Florida

ERIE, Pa. — President TrumpDonald John TrumpFormer employees critique EPA under Trump in new report Fired State Department watchdog says Pompeo aide attempted to 'bully' him over investigations Virginia senator calls for Barr to resign over order to clear protests MORE praised his own record as “the greatest revolution to ever take place in our country” during a speech at a full-to-capacity hockey arena here on Wednesday evening.

The grandiose claim was part of a broader call for voters to turn out in next month’s midterm elections to back Republican candidates who face a challenging electoral landscape.

ADVERTISEMENT

Trump was received rapturously by the crowd at the Erie Insurance Arena, the home of the Erie Otters, which has an official capacity of 6,500.

His supporters booed his attacks on Democrats as lustily as they cheered his boasts about his own accomplishments on trade, the economy and foreign policy.

Trump’s language on Wednesday, and the previous evening in Iowa, has taken on a new harshness about the opposition party, even by his combative standards.

In Pennsylvania, he described Democrats as “the party of crime” and “radical,” while making negative references to Sens. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerRand Paul holding up quick passage of anti-lynching bill Minority caucuses call for quick action on police reform It's time to shut down industrial animal farming MORE (D-N.J.) and Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinRosenstein takes fire from Republicans in heated testimony Democrats aim to amend Graham subpoena to include Trump allies Graham announces hearing on police use of force after George Floyd killing MORE (D-Calif.), as well as House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi scoffs at comparison between Trump and Churchill: 'I think they're hallucinating' Republicans stand by Esper after public break with Trump Pelosi joins protests against George Floyd's death outside Capitol MORE (D-Calif.).

He also asserted that Sen. Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick Casey21 senators urge Pentagon against military use to curb nationwide protests Overnight Health Care: Trump says US 'terminating' relationship with WHO | Cuomo: NYC on track to start reopening week of June 8 | COVID-19 workplace complaints surge 10 things to know today about coronavirus MORE Jr. (D-Pa.), a strong favorite to win reelection in Pennsylvania in November, “joined the left-wing mob by voting against Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughRosenstein takes fire from Republicans in heated testimony Chief Justice Roberts wisely defers to California governor in church challenge  Supreme Court rules immigrants who fear torture can appeal deportations in court MORE,” Trump’s controversial pick for Supreme Court Justice, who was confirmed on Saturday after a bitter partisan battle.

Casey’s Republican challenger, Rep. Lou BarlettaLouis (Lou) James BarlettaBottom Line Ex-GOP congressman to lead group to protect Italian products from tariffs Head of Pennsylvania GOP resigns over alleged explicit texts MORE, joined Trump on stage, delivering brief remarks that included a jab at former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

“This economy is so good that even Colin Kaepernick found a job,” Barletta said, likely in reference to Kaepernick's latest ad campaign with Nike.

Trump risked tricky political optics by going ahead with the rally, even as Hurricane Michael made landfall in Florida, with peak wind speeds over 155 mph.

But Trump told reporters who traveled with him on Air Force One that he had decided it would let down his supporters if he did not press ahead.

“We have thousands of people lined up, so we wanted to make this stop,” he said according to pool reports. “It would be very unfair [to cancel]. You have thousands of people who started coming last night. So we’re going to do that and we have a lot of happy people.”

He began his 66-minute speech by offering “thoughts and prayers of our entire nation” to those who found themselves in the hurricane's path.

Trump said nothing from the stage about the day’s other big story: the plunge in the stock market, where the Dow Jones industrial average lost more than 800 points, its worst single-day loss since February.

But Trump complained to reporters who traveled with him from Washington on Air Force One that the Federal Reserve had “gone crazy” — a reference to raising interest rates — adding that “I really disagree with what the Fed is doing.”

Trump courted controversy in other ways, too.

He repeated a false claim he often makes: that he won the majority of the female vote in 2016. According to exit polls, he won only 41 percent of the female vote overall, though he did win 52 percent of white women’s votes.

Still, Pennsylvania was critical to Trump’s victory in 2016. Erie is an exemplar of the kind of Rust Belt city where the president’s appeal has proven particularly magnetic.

The city has been losing population since the 1960s and has struggled with the loss of manufacturing jobs. Former President Obama won Erie County by 20 points in 2008. The county went for Trump by a whisker in 2016.

The crowd on Wednesday included supporters like Jason Vogel, a 40-year-old from Erie who said he was a former Democratic voter and a union steward at a local casino.

Vogel told The Hill that he admired Trump because “he tells us the truth” and had followed through on his promise to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement. The Democrats, Vogel added, “have gone too far left.”

Also cutting against neat ideological stereotypes was Jude Bloom, a registered nurse who had traveled from Pittsburgh to see Trump.

Bloom said she voted for Obama in the 2008 and 2012 elections but had backed Trump partly because of his stances against “corruption in Washington” and on illegal immigration.

Bloom, who declined to give her age, said she believed the controversial confirmation of Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court would ultimately pay political dividends for Trump.

Trump “stood with him against that woman,” Bloom told The Hill, referring to Christine Blasey Ford, who accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her when both were high school students in 1982. 

Voices like those of Bloom and Vogel were among the thousand who lined up hours before Trump was due to speak in Pennsylvania.

They also buttressed one of his claims. Noting that Republicans had tried and failed to win Pennsylvania in previous presidential cycles, Trump said previous candidates didn’t “get it.”

“I got it — the workers,” he added.

The roars of approval from the crowd suggested he had a point.