In the span of more than 80 minutes stumping for U.S. Senate candidate Luther Strange, President Trump managed to slam top leaders in his own party, taunt “little rocket man” North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, use a cuss word to describe NFL player Colin Kaepernick and even question if he made a mistake in picking Strange.
Mr. Trump, in a speech that went off script, going from topic to topic, left virtually no stone unturned ahead of Tuesday’s Republican primary runoff between Strange and former judge Roy Moore. The president’s speech came hours after Sen. John McCain announced he will not vote for the Senate’sbefore Sept. 30, making any health care reform passage this year less likely. Mr. Trump said passing a health care bill is a “little tougher” without McCain’s vote.
“We might have to go back again, and again,” the president said, comparing the health care fight to a wrestling match where only the strong continue to rise up and keep swinging.
“You can’t quit when you have one or two votes short,” he said.
Mr. Trump described his frustration with just how difficult it has been to persuade senators to vote in favor of a health care bill.
“I’m on the phone screaming at people all day long for weeks,” Mr. Trump said.
Strange’s no-strings attached agreement to vote for the health care legislation that failed this summer, the president told his wife, First Lady Melania Trump, was the coolest thing that happened to him all year.
Mr. Trump said he endorsed Strange —— out of loyalty. Strange is technically an incumbent, having been appointed to the Senate earlier this year to replace now-Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
“And I might’ve made a mistake, I’ll be honest,” the president said.
But the president touched on a number of other issues, deriding “little, after the two traded barbs this week during the United Nations General Assembly. Mr. Trump on Friday said he would handle North Korea, but he also left the uncertain situation of its nuclear weapons capabilities up in the air, saying,”maybe something gets worked out, and maybe it doesn’t.”
The president also brought up one of his favorite topics to criticize — the “hoax” of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Russia, “did not help me,” the president said.
“By the way folks, just in case you’re curious, no Russia did not help me,” the president said, asking jokingly if there were any Russians in the audience.
The president also made some remarks that had little to do with U.S. policy, using a swear word to describe NFL star Colin Kaepernick, who became a controversial figure for refusing to stand for the national anthem. Trump said anyone who disrespects the flag should be fired.
Mr. Trump said that, whoever wins the primary Tuesday, he will return to Alabama to campaign for the victorious Republican ahead of the general election.
Mr. Trump has stronglyon Twitter in recent days, even though many high-profile, hard-right supporters of the president are backing Moore, an ultra-conservative former chief justice of Alabama’s Supreme Court. Mr. Trump will be campaigning for Strange on Monday in Alabama.
But it’s unclear how much Mr. Trump’s endorsement — despite his claims that it’s giving Strange a big boost — matters, as it divides the Republican base. Ahead of Tuesday’s primary, it’s Moore who leads in the polls. Real Clear Politics’ polling average gives Moore a six-point advantage over Strange, though it should be noted that it’s very difficult to accurately poll a special election in Alabama. Moore led Strange in the initial round of voting for the Republican primary, but not by enough to avoid a runoff.