‘You have no choice but to vote for me,’ Trump tells N.H. rally

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Donald Trump

President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Manchester, New Hampshire. | M. Scott Mahaskey/POLITICO

2020 elections

During a campaign stop in the competitive state, the president ties his success to an economy that’s now wobbling.

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Even as markets show signs of a coming recession, President Donald Trump told New Hampshire voters Thursday that they had to support his re-election campaign or suffer the economic consequences.

“I won the election, the markets went up thousands of points, things started happening,” Trump said at a rally here. “If, for some reason, I were not to have won the election, these markets would have crashed. That will happen even more so in 2020. You have no choice but to vote for me, because your 401(k), everything is going to be down the tubes.”

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“Whether you love me or hate me, you have got to vote for me,” he added.

Trump, appearing at his first campaign stop in New Hampshire this year, delivered a wide-ranging speech lasting more than 90 minutes that addressed Hillary Clinton’s emails, eradicating the AIDS epidemic and the prospects of the nearly two dozen Democrats running for president against him.

“You’ve got Pocahontas is rising. You’ve got Kamala, Kamala is falling. You’ve got Beto, Beto is like, gone. We’ll see what happens. Whoever it is, I don’t know that it matters,” Trump said, referring to Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, before turning to former Vice President Joe Biden: “I think Sleepy Joe might be able to limp across the finish line, maybe. … I sort of hope it’s him.”

The president received his largest applause of the night when he pledged his support for gun ownership, even though he has repeatedly said he is seriously considering several changes to tighten gun restrictions following a police shooting in Pennsylvania, and two deadly mass shootings in Ohio and Texas in recent weeks.

“It’s not the gun that pulls the trigger. It’s the person holding the gun,” Trump said, receiving a standing ovation from the crowd of about 10,000 in the SNHU Arena when he called gun violence a mental health problem. “We can’t make it hard for good, solid, law-abiding citizens to protect themselves.”

Trump repeated his vows to use new scientific breakthroughs to end AIDS within the next decade, though some say his administration’s policies will make that goal more difficult.

“We will achieve new breakthroughs in science and medicine, ending in the AIDS epidemic in America, and finding new cures for childhood cancer,” he said. “And something I never thought I’d be able to say: Within one decade, the AIDS epidemic in the United States will be gone. In 10 years, the AIDS epidemic will be eradicated. So great. Who thought that was going to be happening? Who thought I would be able to get to say that?”

When Trump briefly mentioned Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), several members of the crowd began a chant of “send her back,” but it did not catch on. He has repeatedly clashed with Omar and a group of progressive, first-year lawmakers in recent weeks, after making racist statements about them. Earlier Thursday, Israeli leaders barred Omar from the country after Trump lobbied them to deny her entry.

A chant that did catch on with the crowd was “lock her up,” when Trump mentioned Clinton, the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee, and her emails, and took the crowd through the wins and losses on his 2016 electoral map.

The Trump campaign views New Hampshire as a battleground state in the 2020 general election. Clinton won New Hampshire in 2016, and the president is making a play to turn it red in the next election.

“New Hampshire, you have a reputation. Very, very elegant state. You’re not acting it tonight, and that’s a good thing,” Trump said to the enthusiastic crowd. “New Hampshire was taken away from us [in 2016] but we did great in New Hampshire. We should’ve won in New Hampshire.”

The president also mentioned another race shaping up in New Hampshire. Corey Lewandowski, who was fired as Trump’s campaign manager but remains close to the president, may run for Senate in the Granite State. The two spoke about the race on Thursday, according to a person familiar with the conversation.

As he stood before the crowd, Trump lavished praise on Lewandowski, but he stopped short of outright endorsing him.

“I think he’d be tough to beat. I’ll tell you one thing: He’s gonna go into Washington and he’s gonna have you in mind,” Trump said, adding that Lewandowski would be “fantastic.”

But in the next breath, the president conveyed that he wasn’t yet making a declaration of support.

“People ask if I’ll support him and I say, ‘I don’t know if he’s running,’” the president said, before turning to his former aide. “Corey, let us know, please.”

Lewandowski greeted the president upon his arrival at the Manchester airport. He and his family briefly joined Trump on Air Force One. The president departed the airport with Gov. Chris Sununu, a Republican. Sununu, who faces a potentially competitive 2020 reelection bid, has relayed concerns about Lewandowski to party leadership.

During the rally, the president also gave a shout-out to Republican New Hampshire state Rep. Al Baldasaro, who has previously called for Clinton toface a firing squad.

Early on in his speech, the president briefly stopped his remarks when a protester interrupted him. “Go home, start exercising,” Trump taunted as police escorted the man out of the crowd. “That guy’s got a serious weight problem,” he said, though the protesters appeared to be thin.

In the next breath, the president said his campaign was part a movement “built on love.”

Alex Isenstadt and Matthew Choi contributed to this report.

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