WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is betting that his ubiquitous role in the midterm elections — all Trump, all the time — will pay off for Republicans trying to hang onto their perilous majorities in Congress.
Trump’s campaign said Tuesday it will spend more than $20 million on the November elections, including $6 million in national TV and digital ads beginning Oct. 29, and the president will be holding at least 10 more of his signature rallies through the election. Since July 5, Trump has held 20 of his “Make America Great Again” rallies around the country and is staging three more this week in Wisconsin, North Carolina and Illinois.
With two weeks until the election, the White House is battling against history as it tries to defend a lengthy slate of seats held by congressional Republicans. Democrats need to flip 23 House seats to win back the majority, a target that falls in line with the typical losses of about two dozen seats for a first-term president in midterm elections. Republicans are playing on a friendly Senate campaign terrain but can ill afford any mistakes with a narrow 51-49 majority.
Here’s a look at midterm campaign activities Tuesday:
The campaign of Georgia Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Stacey Abrams defended her involvement in burning the state flag — featuring a prominent Confederate symbol at the time — during a college protest more than two decades ago.
The issue surfaced ahead of Abrams’ Tuesday night debate against her Republican opponent, Brian Kemp.
Abrams’ role in the protest emerged after The New York Times published a story citing a June 1992 Atlanta Journal-Constitution article. A photo caption identifies Abrams as a woman standing with her arms crossed, watching three other protesters burn the flag.
Kemp, Georgia’s secretary of state, faces Abrams, the former state House minority leader, in one of the nation’s most competitive races for governor. Abrams is trying to become the nation’s first black female governor.
Abrams’ spokeswoman Abigail Collazo said Abrams was involved in a “permitted, peaceful protest against the Confederate emblem in the flag” while a student at Spelman College in Atlanta in 1992.
The Confederate battle flag was added to Georgia’s state flag in 1956 as a rebuke of the growing civil rights movement. Decades later, political pressure to remove what many considered to be a symbol of white supremacy grew as Atlanta drew international attention by hosting the Olympics in 1996. The Confederate symbol was phased out of the flag in 2001.
Former Vice President Joe Biden campaigned for a second day in Florida, making a quick visit to a Tallahassee coffee shop before heading to a rally at the University of Central Florida in Orlando.
Biden urged students and others milling around the shop to vote for Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson over his Republican opponent, Rick Scott, and stopped for several selfies with the crowd that surrounded him.
“For many of you, this is your first vote, but I tell you: Whether you’re your age or my age, this is an election that is bigger than politics,” Biden said, citing President Donald Trump’s comments after an anti-Nazi demonstrator was killed at a violent white nationalist rally last year in Charlottesville, Virginia.
“This is much bigger than any single issue. It’s about decency; it’s about respect,” Biden said.
Before departing, Biden was asked about the prospect of running for president in 2020. “We’ll see,” he said as the car began to pull away.
Republican Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin asserted in a new campaign ad Tuesday that Tony Evers, his Democratic challenger, wants “special treatment for illegals,” bringing immigration to the forefront ahead of a rally with President Donald Trump.
Walker’s ad is based on comments Evers made during a debate Friday. Evers voiced support for allowing in-state tuition for students who were children when their parents brought them into the U.S. without legal permission. Evers also said he supported allowing workers who are here illegally to obtain driver’s licenses to get to and from work.
Walker opposes allowing people here illegally to get driver’s licenses. Walker’s ad ends with the narrator saying, “Tony Evers: Special treatment for illegals, higher taxes for you.”
Evers’ campaign spokesman Sam Lau accused Walker of fearmongering. “This is a sad, desperate attempt by a career politician to mimic Donald Trump to save his political career,” Lau said.
Polls show the race between Walker and Evers to be a toss-up.
Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris of California was cheered by hundreds of University of Iowa students and party activists in Democratic-heavy Iowa City during a rally to promote early voting.
Harris, who is weighing a 2020 campaign for president, referenced the explosive confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
“Everybody watched the Kavanaugh hearings,” said Harris, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “Well, elections matter. When you win elections, you get the power. So, let’s take back the power.”
Harris spent part of Monday and Tuesday campaigning for Deidre DeJear, who is running for secretary of state and is Iowa’s first black nominee for statewide office from a major political party.
President Donald Trump’s “Strong Endorsement” of Rep. Erik Paulsen, R-Minn., drew a wary reaction from the congressman, who has distanced himself from Trump as he tries to keep his suburban Minneapolis seat.
Trump praised Paulsen late Monday on Twitter for cutting taxes and regulations and urged voters to “Keep Erik in Congress, he has my Strong Endorsement!”
Paulsen said he didn’t seek Trump’s endorsement and said in a statement, “Rather than endorse my campaign, I wish the President would endorse my position to protect the Boundary Waters, Minnesota’s Yellowstone.”
Paulsen was referring to his vote last year against reversing the Obama administration’s moratorium on new mining leases and prospecting in an area of the Superior National Forest near Ely that’s upstream from the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
Paulsen is facing a stiff challenge from Democrat Dean Phillips in Minnesota’s 3rd District, which Hillary Clinton carried by 9 percentage points in 2016. Paulsen avoided Trump’s recent rally in Rochester and has said he wrote in Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s name in the 2016 election rather than vote for Trump.
Phillips’ campaign seized on Trump’s endorsement, referring to it as the president’s “seal of approval.”
In the first debate of their race for Georgia governor, Democrat Stacey Abrams and Republican Brian Kemp sparred over claims of voter suppression and people who are in the country illegally being encouraged to cast ballots.
Abrams said that Kemp’s record as Georgia’s secretary of state “causes great concern” and pointed to the release of voter data under Kemp’s watch and the state’s “exact match” voter registration system. She said Kemp has made it harder for legal citizens to cast ballots.
Kemp said those characterizations were “totally untrue.” He fired back, citing a recent video clip in which Abrams seems to say that “undocumented” immigrants were part of her coalition.
“Why are you encouraging people to break the law to vote for you?” Kemp asked.
Abrams said that Kemp was twisting her words and her record of making it easier for legal citizens to vote.