President Donald Trump praised Republican Gov. Scott Walker and U.S. Senate candidate Leah Vukmir during a campaign stop in Wisconsin on Wednesday as he travels across the country to support GOP candidates amid Democratic enthusiasm leading up to the Nov. 6 midterm elections.
Less than two weeks before voters go to the ballot box, Trump took to the stage in the central Wisconsin city of Mosinee to express his support for the two-term governor being challenged by Democrat Tony Evers, and Vukmir, a state senator from Brookfield hoping to unseat U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison.
“Between Scott and Leah, who’s in favor of those two great people?” Trump asked as the crowd of thousands cheered. “If you vote Republican this November, we will continue to cut your taxes, cut your regulations and raise your income.”
At the start of his speech, Trump decried the threat of political violence and called on the media to end its “hostility” hours after authorities intercepted pipe bombs sent to prominent Democrats and CNN, who have been targets of some of his sharpest barbs.
“We want all sides to come together in peace and harmony,” he said. “Any acts or threats of political violence are an attack on our democracy itself.”
While Trump brought up staple topics of his rallies — such as the proposed wall on the Southern border, judicial nominations and the economy — he skipped some usual attack lines.
And he didn’t go after his potential 2020 rivals, including former Vice President Joe Biden. Trump sometimes likes to talk about how he would beat Biden in a fistfight.
Trump also refrained from mentioning his 2016 rival, Hillary Clinton, and Democratic U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, of California, two of his most frequent targets. A pipe bomb mailed to Clinton and suspicious packages sent to Waters were intercepted Wednesday.
The Republican president, though, took the chance Wednesday to criticize Democratic Wisconsin candidates, saying Baldwin wants a “socialist takeover of health care” and Evers wants “to raise all of your taxes.”
A fundraising email from Baldwin’s campaign after the rally said Baldwin has “stood up to the president when he’s been wrong for working Wisconsinites — or paying lip service without actually delivering on his promises.”
Before Trump took to the podium, Walker touted the state’s economy after his eight years in the office, including the record-low unemployment rate in Wisconsin. Trump later hyped the $10 billion Foxconn electronics manufacturing complex in southeast Wisconsin that is receiving $3 billion in state subsidies.
In Trump-like style, Walker got the crowd going in a chant of “Tony’s taxes will cost us jobs.”
Both Walker and Vukmir said they would work to protect health coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, while Democrats have criticized Walker’s support of a lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act, which put in place protections for those with pre-existing conditions.
Evers spokeswoman Britt Cudaback said in a statement after the rally that Walker is “trying to gut protections” on pre-existing conditions.
“It’s no surprise he doubled down on these efforts tonight by sharing a stage with Donald Trump, since Trump shares Walker’s opposition to expanding health coverage and backs Walker’s lawsuit that would eliminate pre-existing condition protections. Wisconsin families simply cannot trust Scott Walker to protect their health care,” Cudaback said.
The most recent Marquette Law School Poll shows Walker and Evers in a tight race. Trump called Walker’s opponent an “extreme liberal,” mispronouncing Evers’ last name on several occasions.
As for Walker’s short-lived presidential ambitions, Trump said the Wisconsin governor “was tough, he could be nasty,” but he now considers him “a great friend.”
Supporters didn’t find it strange Trump was in town to support a politician he briefly ran against in the presidential primary.
“Trump doesn’t hold grudges,” said Tonie Peterson, 67, of Marshfield.
She pointed to another Republican candidate in the 2016 presidential race, Ted Cruz, whom Trump stumped for on Monday in Houston. The fact that both Cruz and Walker embraced visits by Trump to drum up support for Republican candidates speaks to their need to put America first, she said.
Peterson and other Wisconsinites at the rally stressed the importance of the Republican Party retaining the U.S. House and Senate.
At Wednesday’s rally, Vukmir said Trump was following through on his promises, including an overhaul on the federal tax code and renegotiating trade deals that would benefit state residents.
Alex Rasch, 26, drove 2½ hours from Lake Geneva to attend his first Trump rally. He said he was pleased Trump came to Wisconsin to support Vukmir as he promised he would when Vukmir secured the Republican primary nomination.
“I’m all for Leah and have been since Day 1,” he said. “Baldwin doesn’t accurately represent Wisconsin.”
Vukmir, who initially supported two other Republican candidates in the presidential nomination process before getting behind Trump, also referenced a radio ad she cut with other prominent Republican female elected officials in support of Trump soon before the 2016 election.
“She will always vote for your Wisconsin values. She’s a very special person, I’ve gotten to know her. I don’t know if she liked me at the beginning, but she likes me now,” Trump said. “If you want strong borders and safe communities, you need to vote for Leah.”
Polls have consistently showed Vukmir trailing Baldwin, who is looking for a second six-year term in the Senate.
“I like looking at polls only when we’re winning,” Trump joked, going on to claim that Vukmir was “doing very well” in recent polls without providing a specific example.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.