President Donald Trump has attacked his critics and promoted his steel and aluminum tariffs while addressing a raucous rally for a Republican congressional candidate in a tight race.
Mr Trump’s appearance was aimed at helping Republican Rick Saccone win against Democrat Conor Lamb in a district Mr Trump won overwhelmingly in 2016.
“We need our Congressman Saccone,” Mr Trump said. Hitting peak campaign mode himself ,Mr Trump even touted his planned 2020 slogan, “Keep America Great!”
“The people of Pittsburgh cannot be conned by this guy Lamb,” Mr Trump said, dismissing Mr Lamb’s efforts to run as a moderate Democrat. “He’s never going to vote for us. He can say, ‘I love President Trump.’ … I don’t want to meet him. I might like him.”
But while he heartily endorsed Mr Saccone as a “really good person,” Mr Trump spent a lot of time talking about his own fortunes in a “Make America Great Again” rally in an airport hangar at the Pittsburgh International Airport.
He said it was crucial for Republicans to muster forces to turn back a strong Democratic drive to win one or both houses of the US Congress in November midterm elections.
World news in pictures
“We need Republicans. We need the vote,” Mr Trump said, saying Democrats would take away, among other things, “your Second Amendment rights” to bear firearms.
Continuing his battle against the mainstream news media, Mr Trump insulted NBC News’ Meet the Press host Chuck Todd and Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters.
Mr Trump said the country should discuss having drug dealers face the death penalty because they are responsible for thousands of deaths. “I don’t know if that’s popular. I don’t know if that’s unpopular,” he said.
A day after getting news that the US economy produced 313,000 jobs last month, Mr Trump said his policies are paying off. He said 25 per cent tariffs on steel imports will boost Pennsylvania’s economy.
Critics say the tariffs could trigger retaliatory trade measures and damage the US economy. There are also doubts about how far Mr Trump’s policies will go towards resuscitating the battered American steel industry. “Your steel is coming back. It’s all coming back,” Mr Trump told several thousand cheering supporters.
The president vowed to fight any retaliatory trade measures by, for example, slapping taxes on imported European cars.
Mr Trump also said he hoped to run for re-election against Democrat Oprah Winfrey, although the entertainer has ruled out a run. “I’d love to beat Oprah. I know her weakness,” said Mr Trump.
Mr Saccone is trying to win an election on Tuesday in Pennsylvania’s 18th District to replace Republican Tim Murphy, who resigned last year while enmeshed in a sex scandal.
A Saccone loss would be the first loss of a Republican seat in the House of Representatives since Mr Trump took office in January 2017, although Republicans would still control of the chamber.
The race could signal how much help Mr Trump can provide Republican congressional candidates trying to keep control of both the House of Representatives and the Senate in midterm elections in November.
Typically the party that controls the White House loses seats in the US Congress in the first election after a new president takes office. Mr Trump hopes a strong economy and tax cuts enacted in December will help him beat the odds.