In a pair of rallies on Friday, President Donald Trump went after his predecessor, Barack Obama, who had just criticized Trump’s presidency and character at a Democratic event earlier in the day.
“I heard President Obama speak today…I had nothing else to do,” Trump joked in West Virginia this afternoon, claiming that Obama “had a very small crowd” before blasting his predecessor for “ lies” about how “you can keep your plan if you like” under the Affordable Care Act he said his administration is chipping away at “strike by strike.” The president stressed that the Senate would have “killed” Obamacare last year, if the late Sen. John McCain, who Trump referred to only as “one Republican,” hadn’t voted against so-called skinny repeal.
Trump also went after Obama for the previous administration’s war on whistleblowers and press leaks, stating that “nobody was worse to the press than Obama,” because the former president had “used the Justice Department to go after reporters.” Trump did not mention how his administration has done so, as well, on top of “enemy of the people” and near-constant media-demonizing rhetoric with no parallel in recent American history.
In responding to Obama’s suggestion that Trump should be, as he described it, “nice to the fake news,” the sitting president said, “No, thank you.”
Elsewhere in this speech—part of his final blitz of rallies ahead of the critical 2018 midterm elections on Tuesday—President Trump came close to publicly acknowledging what he has repeatedly acknowledged privately: his increasing nervousness over the likelihood that Democrats take control of the House.
“He thinks it’s going to be close… We’ve all believed it’s going to be close,” Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor and current Trump attorney for the Russia probe, told The Daily Beast on Tuesday. Trump, he recalled, has told him that he believes Republicans are “going to win” but that the president also acknowledged that “it’s much closer than people realize.”
But at the rally on Friday, Trump was all swagger, even as he nodded to the prospect of losing the House as he emphasized on-stage that if the Democratic Party does reclaim control, he would just “veto, veto, veto” any effort to undo last year’s tax cuts.
Later in his speech, Trump gleefully mocked the idea of a “blue wave” in November, even as he stressed that he wasn’t saying “they don’t squeak it by,” and that “I can’t go everywhere” in the U.S. where Republican candidates need a boost. “We’ll see what happens,” Trump said.
Numerous sources close to Trump say that recurring verbal tics like “we’ll see” or “we have to see” are often how he coveys severe doubt and worry.
During a second rally in Indianapolis, Indiana Friday evening, Trump seemed to show some concern about his party’s standing with women, who polling shows are increasingly moving away from the Republican Party. Trump said that the immigration crisis he insists is happening, in spite of all evidence to the contrary, would cause women to return to the GOP to keep their families safe.
"Border security is also a women’s issue. Women want safe neighborhoods for their families,” Trump said. “They want criminals to be thrown in jail or thrown the hell out of our country."
He added: “Women, women, women. I love women. They're the greatest. I like 'em much more than I like the men."
Trump spent most of the evening, though, projecting confidence, sounding at one point something like a pundit marvelling at how the strategy to talk non-stop about dangerous immigrants and Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation process has energized the cheering crowd in the room.
“I think they overplayed their hands on this one, folks,” Trump said, referencing Democrats. “Because between Justice Kavanaugh and the caravans, you people are energized!"