Donald Trump took a hard shot at Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris, saying “nobody likes her” and declaring “it would be an insult to our country” if she one day became the first female American president.
“Ka-ma-la,” the president said over and over during a campaign rally at an airport in Winston-Salem in battleground North Carolina, saying she is “farther left” than progressive hero Senator Bernie Sanders. “Ka-ma-la. Ka-ma-la," he said as a crowd of supporters laughed and cheered.
As he moves the state of the US economy to a secondary issue, Mr Trump said Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden opposes law enforcement and supporters “rioters” and “looters” causing trouble in major US cities during protests of racial inequality.
Mr Trump is selling himself as the “law-and-order” candidate in the race, contending “we don't have crimes, we don't have violence” in cities run by Republican officials.
The former vice president, however, has condemned violent actors within the inequality protests, including the Antifa group. Mr Trump leaves that out of his rally remarks, though he did say Mr Biden has been talking “tougher” in recent days.
In another apparent false statement, Mr Trump declared of his southern borer barrier: “Mexico is paying for the wall." By all accounts, US taxpayers are funding it – though the president contends his new trade pact with that country and Canada has provisions designed so that Mexico sends dollars to north to offset the cost of the barrier. In yet another, he charged Mr Biden with seeking to “end fracking” even though the former VP said in recent days he has no intention to do so, if elected.
But the economy is finding a bigger and bigger place in the president’s campaign message, especially as the unemployment rate fell below 9 per cent in August as more and more areas open their economies amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Saying there might have been 15,000 people at the regional airport a small version of Air Force One touched down at for the event just before 7 p.m., Mr Trump was sure to make a direct plea to North Carolina workers affected by changes in the economy.
“Joe Biden has spent the last 40 years sending North Carolina jobs to China,” he said to boos. “If Biden wins, China wins.” He accused Mr Biden, while a senator, of supporting a stronger China. And he asked the crowd about the coronavirus, which originated there: “I wonder if they sent it on purpose, what do you think?” The crowd let out a cheer, seemingly in the affirmative.
But, as he often does, the populist president distorted his own record.
"We've never had so many jobs," he said even though the country has fewer jobs on payrolls now than the day he was sworn in.
Mr Trump also again said most polls of the presidential race are inaccurate. Though he said he is unsure if folks lying about supporting him makes him feel good, the braggadocios Mr Trump said that alleged widespread reluctance could bring him a “virtual landslide” come November.
He hit every major theme of his revised re-election message within the first half hour of being on stage. “Watch those ballots,” he said, expressing unease with “Democrats watching this stuff,” meaning state leaders from the opposition party who are state chiefs executive or hold positions overseeing elections.
‘Your state should be open’
Mr Trump roared that “your state should be open,” and urged his supporters to oust Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, who has defied the White House’s demands to fully open his economy amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The president touched down in North Carolina after first visiting another battleground state, Florida. Collectively, the two have 44 Electoral College votes as he and Mr Biden seek the magic 270-mark.
Neither candidate is doing much to mask their strategies.
For the president’s part, he made his seventh visit to North Carolina this year alone – and that’s despite his travel freeze during the early weeks and months of the coronavirus pandemic. (He has made 11 trips to Florida, perhaps the most important battleground on his small handful of paths to a second term and home to his Mar-a-Lago resort that doubles as a sometimes-weekend retreat.)
Though he slipped into his now-familiar rally persona in the Tar Heel state, Mr Trump mostly stuck to the script in Florida while announcing an order he signed there extending bans on offshore drilling around the Sunshine and two neighboring states, including potential battleground Georgia.
But at his first stop of the day, Mr Trump found time to take a job or two at Mr Biden. He called the longtime Delaware senator and former vice president “all talk” when it comes to protecting the environment.
Despite a Brookings Institution analysis showing nearly 75 environmental protections he has rolled back since taking office, Mr Trump told Florida voters he is the most environmentally friendly president since Theodore Roosevelt – even though the think tank’s analysis suggests otherwise.
“The Trump administration has been particularly focused on rolling back actions intended to deal with climate change,” according to Brookings. “The United States stands alone among major emitters in the world in its efforts to repudiate the agreement and cannot officially withdraw until the day after the 2020 election in November.”
‘Changed his mind’
Still, the president who sells himself as a political streetfighter appeared to suggest he is willing to take on Democrats on the climate crisis and environment as the campaign heads for its finish.
“The left's agenda isn't about protecting the environment, it's about punishing America, and that's true. Instead of focusing on radical ideology, my administration is focused on delivering real results, and that's what we have,” he said in Jupiter, Florida. “And we right now have the cleanest air we've ever had in this country, let's say over the last 40 years because I assume 200 years ago is probably better.”
He used the line to also criticise the news media, momentarily morphing into campaign mode: “So I do want to preface that because the fake news is back there. When I say ‘the cleanest air we've ever had over a 40- year period’ … is that okay? A couple of hundred years ago, I would imagine it was pretty good, right?”
But as he took a campaign break, the Democratic nominee accused Mr Trump of election-year hypocrisy on the offshore drilling issue.
Just months ago, Donald Trump was planning to allow oil and gas drilling off the coast of Florida,” Mr Biden tweeted. “Now, with 56 days until the election, he conveniently says that he changed his mind. Unbelievable. You don't have to guess where I stand: I oppose new offshore drilling.”
But as night fell in Winston-Salem, Mr Trump issued warning after warning about a possible Biden administration, saying before returning to Air Force One: “You better elect me, North Carolina.”