President Donald J. Trump riled up the crowd last night at a Nashville rally that was partly aimed at promoting GOP Senate candidate Representative Marsha Blackburn, but largely became a chance for Trump to trumpet his favorite themes. In his one-hour speech, the president hit on illegal immigration, the MS-13 gang, tax cuts and the Second Amendment, among other typical topics.
Blackburn, R-Tenn., is vying to win the seat, which is up for grabs with Republican Sen. Bob Corker’s retirement. Corker, who was in the crowd last night, was booed loudly when Trump mentioned his name. Blackburn faces stiff competition in Democrat Phil Bredesen — recent polling has shown them neck-and-neck in a state that voted for Trump over Hillary Clinton by 16 points. Last night, Trump painted Bredesen as someone who will vote with the Democratic leadership in lock step.
“Marsha’s very liberal Democrat opponent, Phil Bredesen, I never heard of this guy,” Trump said Tuesday night. “Who is he? Who is he? He’s an absolute total tool (pause) of Chuck Schumer. He’s a tool (pause) of Chuck Schumer. And of course, the MS-13 lover, Nancy Pelosi.” Not long after Trump mentioned Bredesen by name, he referred to him as “Phil whatever-the-hell-his-name-is.”
Politifact has rated Trump’s claim that she “came out in favor” of MS-13 as false, after Trump called the gang members “animals” earlier this month. The “animals” comment generated controversy for days.
Blackburn appeared on stage briefly, not sharing her own personal platform, but rather, praising the president and his policies thus far. The president endorsed Blackburn on Twitter last month, saying Blackburn is “great on the military, border security and crime.”
But Trump only somewhat stuck to 2018 politics in his speech. The president also emphasized the importance of standing for the national anthem in the NFL, and – in what might be a surprise move to the GOP – said his secretaries of labor and health will introduce a new healthcare plan in the next few weeks. Trump gave no details on that announcement. The president also said he’ll be signing a bill approving billions of dollars for new airports shortly, with his “big, beautiful hands.” That’s seemingly a reference to the 2016 campaign, when an issue was made of the size of his hands. At the time, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said Trump had “small hands,” and Trump defended his manhood.
Trump spent a significant portion of the rally on the topic of illegal immigration, reiterating his claim that Mexico will pay for the border wall, and will like it. “They’re going to pay for the wall and they’re going to enjoy it,” he said.
In a tweet shortly after the rally, Mexico’s president said his country will “NEVER” pay for the wall.
The president is expected to continue to campaign around the country to help elect or reelect Republicans, as Republicans hope to increase, or at least hold, their majority in the Senate. He has already done so in states like West Virginia and Indiana. Both those states have vulnerable Democratic senators in 2018.