Trump rails against Dems at Pennsylvania rally as Hurricane Michael batters Florida

ERIE, Pa. — President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden, Sanders lead field in Iowa poll The Memo: Cohen fans flames around Trump Memo Comey used to brief Trump on dossier released: report MORE praised his own record as “the greatest revolution to ever take place in our country” during a speech at a full-to-capacity hockey arena here on Wednesday evening.

The grandiose claim was part of a broader call for voters to turn out in next month’s midterm elections to back Republican candidates who face a challenging electoral landscape.

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Trump was received rapturously by the crowd at the Erie Insurance Arena, the home of the Erie Otters, which has an official capacity of 6,500.

His supporters booed his attacks on Democrats as lustily as they cheered his boasts about his own accomplishments on trade, the economy and foreign policy.

Trump’s language on Wednesday, and the previous evening in Iowa, has taken on a new harshness about the opposition party, even by his combative standards.

In Pennsylvania, he described Democrats as “the party of crime” and “radical,” while making negative references to Sens. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerBiden, Sanders lead field in Iowa poll Gillibrand says she's worried about top options in Dem 2020 poll being white men Biden team discussed 2020 run with O'Rourke as VP: report MORE (D-N.J.) and Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinSenate Dems urge Trump to continue nuclear arms control negotiations after treaty suspension Senate Intel leaders ask judge not to jail former aide amid leak investigation Dems demand Pompeo brief Congress on whether he discussed Assange with Ecuadorian official MORE (D-Calif.), as well as House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiTrump celebrates judge's decision tossing core tenets of ObamaCare Pelosi gets her swagger on Young girl's death draws new scrutiny over US treatment of migrants MORE (D-Calif.).

He also asserted that Sen. Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyWould-be 2020 Dem candidates head for the exits O’Rourke, Brown shake up volatile Democratic horse race The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by T-Mobile — Democratic race for Speaker turns nasty MORE Jr. (D-Pa.), a strong favorite to win reelection in Pennsylvania in November, “joined the left-wing mob by voting against Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughChief justice of California Supreme Court leaves GOP over Kavanaugh confirmation Doug Jones: Carmakers 'scared to death' over Trump tariffs McCaskill: 'Kavanaugh spectacle' made the difference in midterm loss MORE,” Trump’s controversial pick for Supreme Court Justice, who was confirmed on Saturday after a bitter partisan battle.

Casey’s Republican challenger, Rep. Lou BarlettaLouis (Lou) James BarlettaCasey secures third Senate term over Trump-backed Barletta Overnight Health Care — Presented by Purdue Pharma — Trump officials move to require drug prices in TV ads | 4,000 more people lose Medicaid in Arkansas | New top official for Medicaid Election Countdown: Cruz, O'Rourke fight at pivotal point | Ryan hitting the trail for vulnerable Republicans | Poll shows Biden leading Dem 2020 field | Arizona Senate debate tonight MORE, joined Trump on stage, delivering brief remarks that included a jab at former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

“This economy is so good that even Colin Kaepernick found a job,” Barletta said, likely in reference to Kaepernick's latest ad campaign with Nike.

Trump risked tricky political optics by going ahead with the rally, even as Hurricane Michael made landfall in Florida, with peak wind speeds over 155 mph.

But Trump told reporters who traveled with him on Air Force One that he had decided it would let down his supporters if he did not press ahead.

“We have thousands of people lined up, so we wanted to make this stop,” he said according to pool reports. “It would be very unfair [to cancel]. You have thousands of people who started coming last night. So we’re going to do that and we have a lot of happy people.”

He began his 66-minute speech by offering “thoughts and prayers of our entire nation” to those who found themselves in the hurricane's path.

Trump said nothing from the stage about the day’s other big story: the plunge in the stock market, where the Dow Jones industrial average lost more than 800 points, its worst single-day loss since February.

But Trump complained to reporters who traveled with him from Washington on Air Force One that the Federal Reserve had “gone crazy” — a reference to raising interest rates — adding that “I really disagree with what the Fed is doing.”

Trump courted controversy in other ways, too.

He repeated a false claim he often makes: that he won the majority of the female vote in 2016. According to exit polls, he won only 41 percent of the female vote overall, though he did win 52 percent of white women’s votes.

Still, Pennsylvania was critical to Trump’s victory in 2016. Erie is an exemplar of the kind of Rust Belt city where the president’s appeal has proven particularly magnetic.

The city has been losing population since the 1960s and has struggled with the loss of manufacturing jobs. Former President Obama won Erie County by 20 points in 2008. The county went for Trump by a whisker in 2016.

The crowd on Wednesday included supporters like Jason Vogel, a 40-year-old from Erie who said he was a former Democratic voter and a union steward at a local casino.

Vogel told The Hill that he admired Trump because “he tells us the truth” and had followed through on his promise to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement. The Democrats, Vogel added, “have gone too far left.”

Also cutting against neat ideological stereotypes was Jude Bloom, a registered nurse who had traveled from Pittsburgh to see Trump.

Bloom said she voted for Obama in the 2008 and 2012 elections but had backed Trump partly because of his stances against “corruption in Washington” and on illegal immigration.

Bloom, who declined to give her age, said she believed the controversial confirmation of Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court would ultimately pay political dividends for Trump.

Trump “stood with him against that woman,” Bloom told The Hill, referring to Christine Blasey Ford, who accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her when both were high school students in 1982. 

Voices like those of Bloom and Vogel were among the thousand who lined up hours before Trump was due to speak in Pennsylvania.

They also buttressed one of his claims. Noting that Republicans had tried and failed to win Pennsylvania in previous presidential cycles, Trump said previous candidates didn’t “get it.”

“I got it — the workers,” he added.

The roars of approval from the crowd suggested he had a point.