CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO. — For his last rally before the midterm elections, President Trump took the stage Monday night and delivered an hour and 20-minute speech before a packed house at the Show Me Center on the campus of Southeast Missouri State University. His remarks presented the races around the country as a dangerous fight for America’s future.
The rally was the culmination of more than 30 events Trump has held around the country since Labor Day. The president’s campaign trail marathon came as Democrats appear poised to retake the House after making gains in several key races.
In the home stretch Monday, Trump held a trio of rallies, with Air Force One ferrying him between Ohio, Indiana and the final stop in Missouri, where his remarks included a series of comments casting Democratic immigration policies as a looming menace.
“Democrats want to abolish ICE. … They want America to be a giant sanctuary city for gang members and MS13 killers. Republicans believe America should be a sanctuary for law-abiding Americans, not criminals,” Trump said.
The focus on the so-called caravan of Central American migrants making their way through Mexico has been a mainstay of Trump’s recent events, prompting renewed concerns about his rhetoric — particularly after suspects with right-wing leanings were arrested in a wave of bomb threats and a deadly synagogue shooting earlier this month. But his Missouri event showed none of the recent violence has tempered Trump.
The president made his standard jab that the press assembled in the back of the room was “fake news.” He also described the multiple sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh as a “scam” and took aim at Missouri Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill. Trump, who invited McCaskill’s Republican rival ,Josh Hawley, on stage, claimed that her positions on immigration protected “criminal aliens rather than American citizens.
“If you want jobs and you want safety you have only one choice,” Trump said of the Missouri Senate race, which is extremely tight.
At one point, a woman had a medical issue in the packed crowd, which prompted Trump to pause his remarks for several minutes as he encouraged doctors to come to her aid. The audience responded by praying and singing “Amazing Grace,” though the calm was punctured by multiple chants of “Build the wall” and “CNN sucks.”
Trump’s appearance came on a cold and rainy day in southeastern Missouri, a staunchly conservative stretch of the state known as the “Bootheel” near the borders of Tennessee, Kentucky, Arkansas and Illinois. The bad weather didn’t deter the Trump faithful, many of whom endured long waits in soaking lines to fill the arena.
Trump’s rallies ahead of the midterms have all featured the elements that became his trademarks during the 2016 election, including a soundtrack featuring the Village People, Rolling Stones and Elton John, and a pen where members of the press are kept separate from the crowd.
While the president’s remarks touched on a long list of topics, including boasts about the economy under his administration, his heated words on immigration clearly resonate among his base.
Peter Boyer, who said he was from East Prairie and who wore a “Make America Great Again” hat atop a camouflage ensemble, told Yahoo News that he had stood in the rain for “about three hours,” despite having a medical condition.
Boyer flatly rejected the suggestion that Trump’s words could prove problematic.
“I think we’ve had violent and irresponsible rhetoric for 10, 12 years and that’s what brought him to us,” Boyer said. “He’s what’s going to help get our country back in the direction that it should have been.”
Attendees described immigration — particularly the group of Central American migrants — as one of their top issues.
Leah Webb, a stay-at-home mom from Poplar Bluff, said she wants immigration policies “overhauled.”
“The caravan, that is making me nervous,” Webb said. “I’m afraid it’s going to go bad. So, I hope maybe we can come to a good conclusion with that.”
While there are thousands of Central American migrants passing through Mexico, authorities in that country have published updates indicating that many of them have accepted help returning to their countries, while others have applied to stay in Mexico. A bulletin published Monday by the Mexican secretaries of the interior and foreign affairs said the migrants were in three separate groups that were all at least 600 miles from Texas.
Late last month, Trump ordered over 5,000 U.S. troops to the border to respond to the migrants. Critics have accused Trump of hyping the threat to energize his supporters ahead of the election.
While she acknowledged knowing that the migrants were hundreds of miles from the United States, Webb said she did not believe Trump was exaggerating the dangers they posed.
“Not at all,” she said.
Blaine Fogel, who said he was from Fulton and who was decked out in “Trump 2020” apparel, also described immigration and the group of Central Americans as his top concern.
“They’re not citizens — they got nothing coming,” Fogel said. “I’m glad he put the military on the border. I hope he gives them a couple of full clips.”
While Trump was clearly the main attraction, he was bolstered in Missouri by conservative pundits Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, and “God Bless The U.S.A.” singer Lee Greenwood.
Fogel said he considered the rally a “can’t miss” event.
“Three of my heroes: Sean Hannity, the great Rush, and Donald Trump all under the same roof at the same time,” he said. “How could you pass?”
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