Donald Trump has concluded a final flurry of campaigning across the US heartlands with an appearance featuring some of his most loyal media cheerleaders and a claim that he sensed the same energy he did two years ago, when he stunned pundits and won the White House.
After events in Ohio and Indiana, the president appeared for 90 minutes in front of a loud, energetic audience in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, the home of right wing radio host Rush Limbaugh. Mr Limbaugh, an early and consistent supporter of the president, was among a number of conservative media personalities who appeared with Mr Trump. Fox News’ Sean Hannity and Jeanine Pirro also took to the stage.
“What an honour this is,” said a fawning Mr Limbaugh. “I have been watching Trump rallies since the first one. To be part of one is the night of a life time.”
The president offered warm words to Mr Limbaugh, Mr Hannity, Ms Pirro and Josh Hawley, the 38-year-old Republican who is challenging Missouri Democratic senator Claire McCaskill, and who was the official reason for Mr Trump’s visit.
But the president saved most of his praise for himself. He said the country’s economy had never been better, that illegal immigrants were no longer able to enter the country and claimed healthcare was improved – all things he put down to his own stewardship of the nation. He also told the crowd that someone had told him it was impossible to make three campaign stops in a day and that usually politicians required a month to recover after one appearance – one of several comments on Monday night that bore only a fragile association to the truth.
The president’s appearance came as most pundits predict that while the Republicans will hold on to the Senate, Democrats are likely to flip the 23 seats they need to win the House of Representatives.
Mr Trump claimed that while his name was not on the ballot, the media would blame him if the Republicans did badly on Tuesday. If they did well, he added, he would receive no credit.
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“If you don’t want to be saying Speaker Nancy Pelosi, get out and vote Republican tomorrow,” said Mr Trump, referring to the Democratic leader in the House. It is the House where any impeachment proceedings against the president would start out.
Mr Trump also brought on stage his eldest daughter, Ivanka Trump, the White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and counsellor Kellyanne Conway, an apparent appeal to women voters whose support polls suggest Republicans are at risk of losing this election.
The latest NPR/PBS News Hour/Marist poll found 49 per cent of women disapprove of Mr Trump’s performance as president, compared with 44 per cent of men.
Talking to a packed crowd in Fort Wayne, Indiana, Mr Trump also claimed credit for a strong economy. “A vote for Republicans is a vote to continue our extraordinary prosperity,” he said. “A vote for Democrats is a vote to bring this economic boom crashing down very rapidly.”
While Mr Hannity has been a constant supporter of the president, his appearance on stage there was a surprise to some in the industry.
Earlier he vowed he would merely be broadcasting from the event, not participating.
Once he did get on the stage, he urged people to vote Republican, claimed Mr Trump was responsible for “promises made, promises kept”, and told the crowd: “By the way, all those people in the back are fake news.”
As it was, Fox News did not broadcast Mr Hannity’s appearance and only featured part of Mr Trump’s speech.
Earlier, Mr Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama appeared at an event in Fairfax, Virginia.
Speaking at the campaign office of senator Tim Kaine, Mr Obama said people had become disenchanted after his 2008 win and found that things did not “become perfect” overnight.
But he said that by electing people such as Mr Kaine and Jennifer Wexton, a Democratic candidate for congress, progress would be made.
“How we talk to each other gets better. Better is good. Better is a start,” he said. “When you do that everything is going to shine.”