Trump sticks with old playbook to aid GOP in Senate runoff


Associated Press

TUPELO, Miss.

President Donald Trump brought back the playbook he used during the leadup to the midterm elections, warning of the dangers of illegal immigration and painting Democrats as radical “socialists,” as he returned to the campaign trail Monday to try to keep a Mississippi Senate seat in GOP hands.

A day after U.S. border agents deployed tear gas on a group of migrants after some tried to charge the U.S.-Mexico border, Trump returned to the campaign scare talk that had largely disappeared following the Nov. 6 midterms. Trump had made the approaching Central American caravan a central issue of the 2018 elections.

The president has stressed his desire for bipartisanship in the days since the midterms, when Democrats took control of the House.

But on Monday, he painted Democrats as radical and dangerous as he stumped for Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, who is facing Democrat Mike Espy in a Tuesday runoff election that could pad the GOP’s current 52-47 advantage in the Senate.

At his first rally of the day in Tupelo, Trump told the crowd that the runoff would “decide whether we build on our extraordinary achievements or whether we empower the radical Democrats to obstruct our progress.”

He claimed Espy would “vote in total lockstep” with Sen. Chuck Schumer, Rep. Nancy Pelosi and “the legendary Maxine Waters,” drawing resounding boos.

Later, at a Christmas-themed rally in Biloxi, where Trump emerged on the stage from a chimney, he said that Democrats want to impose an “extreme job-killing agenda” and that a vote for Espy would be a vote for a “Democrat agenda of socialism and open borders.”

“Democrats will also destroy your health care by inviting caravan after caravan after caravan” of immigrants into the country illegally, he claimed, warning they would wreak havoc and bankrupt the Treasury Department.

The comments underscore the president’s willingness to cycle between insults and flattery depending on his purpose. And they foreshadow the messaging dissonance that could mark the next two years of his presidency as he faces a divided Congress – a Republican-majority Senate and a Democrat-controlled House – after two years of across-the-board Republican power.

On immigration, Trump defended the U.S. response to the border clash on Sunday, when U.S. agents fired tear gas at migrants, some of whom had attempted to climb through fencing and wire separating the countries.

Trump told the crowd in Tupelo that “we don’t want those people in Mississippi” and that immigrants are “not coming through anymore” illegally.

He said the message his administration was sending was clear: “Turn back now, go back home. We will not let you in.”

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