Ignoring dramatic developments in two federal courtrooms earlier in the day, President Donald Trump changed the subject to the 2018 midterm elections Tuesday night.
And he did so in the friendliest of confines — West Virginia, whose voters gave him his second-biggest margin of any state in the 2016 presidential election. The state also regularly ranks at or near the top of state-by-state approval ratings.
“You know, they keep talking about a blue wave,” said the president. “I don’t see it. We have the greatest economy we’ve ever had.”
Trump aimed squarely at the state’s Democratic senator, Joe Manchin, who is seeking another six-year term. Trump noted that Manchin voted against tax cuts and repealing Obamacare.
“I like Joe, but Joe doesn’t vote for us,” he told the enthusiastic crowd in Charleston. “It’s a vote for [Senate Minority Leader Chuck] Schumer, [House Minority Leader] Nancy Pelosi, their new leader, Maxine Waters [the Democratic representative from California] … They’re not in favor of West Virginia. They don’t know it exists. They don’t like coal. They don’t like energy.”
Trump knocked Manchin for sticking by 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton even after she vowed to put coal companies and workers out of business.
“Joe Manchin always voted for [former President Barack] Obama, and he voted to keep the disaster known as Obamacare. And I will tell you, it is being chipped away,” Trump said.
The chief executive did not mention the day’s courtroom dramas in New York and Virginia. In the latter, a federal jury convicted Paul Manafort, who served for several months as his campaign chairman during the GOP primaries, on eight counts related to bank and tax fraud.
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Although the charges are unrelated to his tenure with Trump, the political implications aren’t helpful to him. And perhaps more damaging to Trump, his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, pleaded guilty to a pair of what prosecutors termed campaign finance violations — which he said he committed at Trump’s direction.
Trump’s political allies at Tuesday’s rally did not mention those legal proceedings, either.
State Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, who is challenging Manchin, thanked Trump for visiting the state for the sixth time.
“West Virginia’s never seen anything like this. We love you, Mr. President,” Morrisey said. “And I’ll tell you this: We know that President Trump is making America great again. But even more importantly, President Trump is making West Virginia great again.”
Morrisey’s comments about Trump drew chants of “Drain that swamp! Drain that swamp! Drain that swamp!”
The GOP nominee urged voters to reject “Dishonest Liberal Joe Manchin,” who is “no friend of the president.”
Gov. Jim Justice, who switched from Democrat to Republican after Trump became president, said the state needs to help him.
“Patrick Morrisey’s a little behind right now,” he said. “He needs you. He needs you. He needs all of you. He needs you to go out and be warriors for him. He can win this. And this man needs him.”
Trump reeled off a long list of economic statistics — a 4.1 percent growth rate in the second quarter, 4 million new jobs and a surge in employment in the manufacturing sector.
“And I know this doesn’t matter to you,” he said, tongue firmly planted in cheek, “but we are putting our great coal miners back to work.”
The crowed erupted with chants of “Trump! Trump! Trump!”
Added Trump: “We love clean beautiful West Virginia coal.”
For much of the rest of the speech, Trump served up his characteristically conservative populist red meat:
- The national anthem controversy: “Unlike the NFL, you always honor and cherish our great American flag.”
- The military: “Our military will soon be stronger than it’s ever been before. We’re taking care of our amazing veterans.”
- Illegal immigration: “The Democrats want to turn America into one big, fat sanctuary city for criminal aliens. And honestly, they’re more protective of aliens — the criminal aliens — than they are of the people.”
- Tuesday’s deportation of a Nazi war criminal: “They’d been trying to get him out for decades … We got him out. Gone. He’s gone.”