Trump tries to win over key Michigan voters with bleak warnings about a Biden economy in speech praising Kim Jong-un and Putin

'He's a smart guy. Very smart guy. Smart. We get along,' president says of North Korean dictator

John T. Bennett
Washington Bureau Chief
Friday 11 September 2020 02:44 BST
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'You're a disgrace': Trump rages at claim he 'lied' to American public about coronavirus

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Louise Thomas

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Donald Trump uttered dire warning after dire warning about a Joe Biden presidency as he courted voters in the crucial swing state of Michigan on Thursday evening, calling the Democratic nominee a “globalist sellout” while distorting his own and his opponent’s records and plans during a raucous return to the campaign trail.

He painted Mr Biden as a “globalist sellout” who, if elected, would “surrender your jobs to China and now surrender to … the violent, left-wing mob,” adding: “If Biden wins, the rioters, anarchists, rioters and flag-burners win – but I wouldn’t worry about it because he’s not winning.

“Joe Biden’s agenda is made in China. Mine is made in the USA,” he said to a loud roar.

Mr Trump told supporters he is “running to keep jobs in Michigan”. Yet, he has failed to bring about the manufacturing sector renaissance he promised in 2016. The unemployment rate there was around 5 per cent when he took office, and was at 8.7 per cent in July after surging to 24 per cent in April during the height of the coronavirus shutdown, according to the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.

He repeated a claim the independent organisation FactCheck.org has dubbed “false”, saying new automobile plants are opening in Michigan and other swing states. He praised Russian leader Vladimir Putin and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un.

“He's a smart guy. Very smart guy. Smart. We get along,” he said of the latter. And of the former: "He likes me. I like him, [he’s] not so bad."

What’s more, he peppered the event – showered with “four more years!” and “we love you!” chants – with fearful warnings.

“Does anybody want to have somebody from Antifa as a member and as as a resident of your suburb?” he said of the group that his general election foe also has condemned. “‘Say 'Darling, who moved in next door?' 'Oh, it's a resident of Antifa.' 'No thank you. … Let's get the hell out of here, darling. Ahh, I wish Trump were president,’” he said of a fictional conversation he said suburb-dwelling couples would be forced to have if he loses in November.

“No city, town or suburb will be safe,” he warned.

In more dark rhetoric aimed at suburban mothers, a group he lost big in the 2018 midterm elections, Mr Trump said the “super libs” want to “indoctrinate your children with poisonous anti-American lies. … They’re only getting more desperate by the day.”

The president, using Air Force One as a taxpayer-funded prop parked behind the stage at the airport rally, returned to the campaign trail for the second time in three days, making his fourth visit to the “Great Lakes State” in 2020 – even with the coronavirus pandemic that froze his travel for several months.

His campaign is stepping up his events, with Sunday rallies planned in Reno and Las Vegas as he tries to snatch that state from Democratic hands. Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton took Nevada by nearly 2.5 percentage points four years ago, securing its six electoral college votes.

Mr Trump was back in Michigan as Mr Biden’s lead there, like other battlegrounds, has narrowed a bit in recent weeks – although several polls show the former vice president again leading nationally by double-digits with less than two months before election day. RealClearPolitics gives Mr Biden a 4.2 percentage-point lead there.

The president won the state very narrowly last time, by three-hundredths of a point. He suggested on Thursday night that up to 62 per cent of all those who respond to political polls “are lying” and said he believes he is “up big”. He touted the size of energy within the Freeland crowd, saying: "This is not a crowd of a person who comes in second place."

Analysts at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics on Thursday released an updated version of their 2020 electoral college map projections. The centre’s Kyle Kondick tweeted a projection map that put Michigan in the leans Democratic column, along with a college projection that, based on its analyses, puts 269 Electoral votes in the former VP’s hands, if the election was held today. It gives Mr Trump 204, well shy of the 270 needed to win. But with 65 up for grabs, states like Michigan loom large.

“Joe Biden is better positioned to win the presidency than Donald Trump, but it would be foolish to rule out another Trump upset,” according to a new centre summary of the race. “Trump’s potential winning map would look a lot like 2016, with perhaps a few changes; Biden’s potential winning map might feature Democratic advances in the Sun Belt and retreats in the midwest compared to past winning Democratic maps.”  

Earlier on Thursday, Mr Trump denied lying to Americans about coronavirus by saying to journalist Bob Woodward in private in early February it was “deadly stuff” and transmitted through the air, but downplaying the virus and mask-wearing in public.

“There’s no lie here. What we’re doing is we’re leading,” the president said in response to a question from ABC News correspondent Jonathan Karl, slamming the inquiry as a “terrible question” and calling the journalist a “disgrace” to his employer.

“If he thought that was a bad statement, he would have reported it,” Mr Trump claimed. “No one thought it was bad.”

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