Trump ends campaign hoping to defeat Democrats in states he won
FORT WAYNE, Ind. -- President Donald Trump delivered a dark and sometimes fact-challenged message on immigration Monday as he zigzagged through a trio of Midwestern states that propelled him to the White House, digging deep into the tactics he used two years ago in hopes of unseating Democrats and retaining GOP control of the Senate.
Stumping for a handful of Republican senatorial and gubernatorial candidates on the eve of the midterms, Trump claimed at a rally here that there is a "Democrat-led assault on America's sovereignty" and argued that the "Democrat agenda will deliver a socialist nightmare."
"If you want more caravans, if you want more crime, vote Democrat tomorrow," Trump told thousands of raucous supporters in Indiana, the second of three stops he made on behalf of Republican candidates on the last day before the polls open Tuesday.
Trump began his Monday by reviving his war against the media - accusing CNN without evidence of broadcasting "Fake Suppression Polls" - and by floating unfounded claims of illegal voting, as he also did in 2016, insisting without proof that "a lot of people" planned to vote illegally.
In Cleveland, at the first of the three rallies, Trump continued the apocalyptic, fact-deprived theme that he has hammered in recent days. The president started his 56-minute speech by touting the economy, but he quickly pivoted to fearmongering rhetoric centered on crime and immigration.
Trump accused Democrats of taking a "wrecking ball to our economy and to our future," while claiming without evidence that Democrats are trying to attract more undocumented immigrants into the country so they can vote.
"Democrats are inviting caravan after caravan of illegal aliens to flood into our country and overwhelm your communities," he said.
He also falsely told the throng of supporters that "we're building the wall, don't worry," while arguing that "barbed wire looks like it's going to be very effective, too," referring to his deployment of thousands of troops to the southern border.
Of Richard Cordray, the Democratic nominee for governor in Ohio and a former director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Trump said that he was "crushing people, crushing community banks, destroying small business, destroying jobs," and he mocked Cordray's close ally, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.
Trump's itinerary Monday included the swing state of Ohio, where Republicans have struggled to gain traction against Sen. Sherrod Brown, D, and two red states, Missouri and Indiana - a sign of how his popularity is limited to conservative areas.
The campaign stops in his six-day, 11-rally blitz also show that Trump seems to have largely conceded the battle for the House to the Democrats and instead is relying on his personal appeal to his party's base to push GOP Senate candidates across the finish line.
He took an explicitly personal tone in a conference call with more than 200,000 supporters and then later at the rally in Cleveland, telling his backers that he was effectively up for reelection as a way to implore his base to turn out and vote Tuesday.
"In a certain way, I am on the ballot," Trump said in the call, organized by his reelection campaign. "Whether we consider it or not, the press is very much considering it a referendum on me and us as a movement."
Before leaving Washington for Monday's spate of rallies, Trump announced in a tweet that "Law Enforcement has been strongly notified to watch closely for any ILLEGAL VOTING which may take place in Tuesday's Election (or Early Voting). Anyone caught will be subject to the Maximum Criminal Penalties allowed by law."
Shortly before Trump's tweet, the Justice Department announced that it would deploy personnel to 35 jurisdictions in 19 states to "monitor compliance with voting rights laws" - a move that prompted suspicion and some alarm from voting rights advocates.
Trump, whose own voter fraud commission was abandoned with little to show for it, did not provide any proof of voting irregularities.
"Just take a look. All you have to do is go around, take a look at what's happened over the years, and you'll see," he told reporters before boarding Air Force One in Washington. "There are a lot of people, a lot of people - my opinion, and based on proof - that try and get in illegally and actually vote illegally. So we just want to let them know that there will be prosecutions at the highest level."
Trump also defended an immigration-themed ad from his campaign after Facebook and several television networks - including his favorite, Fox News - decided not to run it because it was deemed racist.
"We have a lot of ads. And they certainly are effective, based on the numbers that we're seeing," the president said. When told that many found the ad offensive, he retorted: "Well, a lot of things are offensive. Your questions are offensive a lot of times."
He also signaled that his Cabinet could be poised for a shake-up come Wednesday, noting that "administrations make changes, usually after midterms, and probably we'll be right in that category, too."
Later in Ohio, Trump told the crowd that he would never call a woman beautiful again because it is now "politically incorrect" - an apparent dig at the #MeToo movement - shortly before introducing his daughter Ivanka Trump, a senior White House adviser, to the stage.
"You're not allowed to use the word 'beautiful' anymore when you talk about women. It's politically incorrect," Trump said. He then asked the men in the crowd to raise their hands and vow to never call women beautiful.
"I'm not allowed to say it because - because it's my daughter Ivanka, but she's really smart and she's here," Trump continued. "Should I bring her up? . . . Come on up, Ivanka."
"Wow, wow. Hi, Ohio," Ivanka Trump said. "That was some introduction."
After she left the microphone, her father said, "I never said she was beautiful, but she was smart."
This article was written by Josh Dawsey and Seung Min Kim, reporters for The Washington Post. The Washington Post's William Wan and John Wagner contributed to this report.