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

ERIE, Pa. — President TrumpDonald John TrumpGOP senator introduces bill to hold online platforms liable for political bias Rubio responds to journalist who called it 'strange' to see him at Trump rally Rubio responds to journalist who called it 'strange' to see him at Trump rally 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.

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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 BookerWarren introduces universal child care legislation Warren introduces universal child care legislation Booker responds to Trump's mass deportation threat: 'This is not who we are' MORE (D-N.J.) and Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinDemocrats detail new strategy to pressure McConnell on election security bills Democrats detail new strategy to pressure McConnell on election security bills Hillicon Valley: GOP senator wants one agency to run tech probes | Huawei expects to lose B in sales from US ban | Self-driving car bill faces tough road ahead | Elon Musk tweets that he 'deleted' his Twitter account MORE (D-Calif.), as well as House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi slated to deliver remarks during panel hearing on poverty The DNC's climate problems run deep Cracks form in Democratic dam against impeachment MORE (D-Calif.).

He also asserted that Sen. Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump, Biden go toe-to-toe in Iowa The Hill's Morning Report - Trump, Biden go toe-to-toe in Iowa Overnight Health Care: Biden infuriates abortion-rights groups with stance on Hyde Amendment | Trump tightens restrictions on fetal tissue research | Democrats plan event to scrutinize Trump's mental health 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 KavanaughSupreme Court hands Virginia Democrats a win in gerrymandering case Supreme Court hands Virginia Democrats a win in gerrymandering case Supreme Court rules defendants can be tried on state and federal charges, potentially impacting Manafort 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 BarlettaTrump's most memorable insults and nicknames of 2018 GOP trading fancy offices, nice views for life in minority Casey secures third Senate term over Trump-backed Barletta 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.