Trump endorses Morrisey for Senate, warns of Democratic takeover of Congress
CHARLESTON — In a speech somewhere between a political endorsement and a scorched-earth, cautionary tale of the implications of a Democratic congressional takeover, President Donald Trump visited Charleston on Tuesday to throw his weight behind Patrick Morrisey’s Senate bid.
Speaking at a rally at the Charleston Civic Center, Trump announced his backing of Morrisey, who has served as West Virginia’s attorney general since 2012, in his run against incumbent Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.
While Trump sang some praise for Morrisey, much of the speech depicted a dystopian world of Democratic control, rife with “open borders,” an “abolished” Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, “massive crime” and a dissolved Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
“A blue wave in November means open borders, which means massive crime,” he said. “A red wave means safety and strength.”
Well beyond policy points, Trump dove headfirst into political controversy. Within minutes of walking on the stage, he tore into NFL players kneeling during the national anthem to protest racial inequality and police brutality in the U.S., along with ESPN’s decision to not show the anthem during “Monday Night Football.” Trump has called the protests unpatriotic.
By the end of the speech, he had made reference to West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice’s weight, repeatedly called out the “fake news,” jabbed at New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and told the crowd how horrible Democratic Reps. Nancy Pelosi and Maxine Waters, both of California, are. (“They don’t like coal,” he said.)
While he meandered from the Morrisey endorsement throughout the 75-minute speech, he commended Morrisey for his stamina on the campaign trail. However, he also framed a vote for Morrisey as a vote for Republican control, more than just a vote for the man.
“He does not stop,” Trump said of the attorney general. “When you cast your ballot for Congress in November, you aren’t just voting for a candidate. You’re voting for which party controls the House and which party controls the Senate.”
Trump brought Justice onstage to stump for Morrisey as well. Justice referenced recent polling suggesting Morrisey is trailing Manchin.
“Patrick Morrisey is a little behind right now,” Justice said. “He needs you. He needs all of you to go out there to be warriors and deputies for him. He can win this. This man needs it.”
Joining the president onstage, Morrisey declared that no one would be a bigger ally to Trump than he would, and the best way to support the president would be to vote for him.
He repeated his regular lines against Manchin, saying Manchin obstructs Trump’s agenda, voted for Hillary Clinton after she said she would put coal miners out of work, stands for “radical gun control” and opposed Trump’s tax reform package.
Clinton’s remark, in full context, boiled down to her plan to foster new work opportunities for coal miners, given industry decline. Regarding guns, Manchin sponsored a bill, along with Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., in 2013 that would expand background checks for online gun sales. It failed to pass.
The hits landed with the crowd. At mention of Clinton, the audience boomed in a chorus of “Lock her up! Lock her up!”
Hours before the chant erupted, a jury convicted Trump’s former campaign chairman on several counts of fraud and his personal attorney pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations, specifically for paying off a porn star who allegedly had an affair with Trump in exchange for her silence in the weeks leading up to the 2016 presidential election.
Trump was far from the only speaker to take aim at the media. Lara Trump, the president’s daughter-in-law, went after the “fake news media” for reporting on the “nonsense about collusion” in a speech before her father-in-law. Rep. Alex Mooney, R-W.Va., made similar remarks.
Before Trump came on, Justice held up a copy of Tuesday’s edition of the Charleston Gazette-Mail, singling out a report quoting experts that coal would not rebound, despite the proposed loosening of regulations regarding emissions standards at coal-fired power plants.
“These people are here to keep you down,” he said of the newspaper.
Prior to the event, several people in attendance lined up in front of the press pen to heckle CNN’s Jim Acosta as he reported on camera. One man went as far as to wave a T-shirt with an AR-15 graphic at the reporter.
During the speech, Trump claimed credit for an economic turnaround in West Virginia. He said the state was hurting before his presidency, but now it’s surging.
“Did you know that a few months ago, it hit where West Virginia, on a per capita basis, is one of the most successful GDP states in our union?” he said. “We went from being down and out to being one of the most successful in the union. Very close to the top. That is some big turn.”
While West Virginia’s economy has improved, it is far from the most successful state in the nation.
According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, West Virginia has been at or near the top of the list for states in terms of real gross domestic product change in the first and third quarters of 2017.
However, that same data set ranked West Virginia as 37th in the category in the first quarter of 2018. It fared similarly in the first, second and fourth quarters of 2017.
Separate data from WorkForce West Virginia shows the state’s unemployment rate of 5.4 percent surpasses the national rate of 3.9 percent. The data also show West Virginia trailing in measurements of workforce participation, per capita income and other key economic indicators.
While Trump amped up the failed, Republican-led efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Manchin released a statement prior to the president’s speech criticizing Morrisey for signing on to a lawsuit attacking the constitutionality of the law.
He also criticized Morrisey for his opposition to the “unlawful” statewide teacher and school service personnel work stoppage and his lobbying work for the pharmaceutical industry.
“It’s always special when the president of the United States comes to West Virginia, but no presidential campaign can cover up Patrick Morrisey’s record of trying to take away coverage for 800,000 people with pre-existing conditions, trying to put our educators in jail for speaking up for higher wages and being in the pocket of the opioid industry,” Manchin said in a statement.
To the roar of the crowd, Trump promised Morrisey and his supporters that he would be back to support Morrisey in the election.
“I’m going to be going as many days as I’m allowed to,” he said.
Reach Jake Zuckerman at email@example.com, 304-348-4814 or follow @jake_zuckerman on Twitter.