President Donald Trump hit all the notes his supporters wanted to hear Thursday night at Columbia Regional Airport, attacking “extremist” Democrats, “dishonest” journalists and promising that in coming months there will be more tax cuts, a border wall and more conservative judges.
Trump, scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m., took the stage just after 7 p.m. and began with an attack on U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., who faces Attorney General Josh Hawley in Tuesday’s election. McCaskill, seeking a third term, has been virtually neck-and-neck with Hawley all year but has fallen slightly behind in some recent polls.
“In just five days the people of Missouri are going to retire far-left Democrat Claire McCaskill,” Trump said.
The crowds began arriving hours early for the event. By 2:30 p.m., a line of cars formed at the Route H exit and Missouri State Highway Patrol troopers were directing people to park along Ponderosa Street, where they had a walk of nearly two miles in a cold rain to reach the rally.
Tim White and his wife Stephanie White drove from Pleasant Hill, near Kansas City.
“It is the first time I’ve ever seen a president,” Tim White, a mechanic, said as they walked through a cold rain to the airport. “He stands for what we really need and want.”
The crowd, several thousand strong, filled the Columbia Jet Center. As they waited under three enormous American flags, the crowd recited the Pledge of Allegiance, led by Boone County Clerk Taylor Burks, and the Star Spangled Banner, sung by former governor, senator and U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft.
Vicki Arcobasso came from Jefferson City to volunteer and hand out signs reading “Women for Trump” and “Promises Made and Kept.” As a member of Republican Leadership Initiative, Arcobasso said she can’t even quantify the reasons why she supports Trump. She was thrilled the president thought to come to Missouri.
“(His visit) means that he’s not forgetting about some of the grassroots areas like Missouri and areas where farmers are,” Arcobasso said. “We have people with good core values, and he represents a lot of that.”
Trump curried favor with the already-supportive crowd, beginning his remarks by saying he loved the “Tigers for Trump” signs he had seen. The president spoke for almost 70 minutes, touching on the tax cut passed late last year, the appointment of Supreme Court Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, trade and his plan to build a wall at the Mexico border. He promised a new tax cut of 10 percent after the election.
“It is a choice between the economy that is going strong and the Democrats who are going crazy,” Trump said.
Democrats, he said, “have gone crazy, folks. They have gone totally loco. The Democrats are the party of rigid ideology and total conformity.”
In his attacks on the media, Trump complained that coverage of his administration has been unfair and slanted.
“Journalists, reporters, are fun people but they are dishonest,” Trump said.
The public perceives the mainstream media as more divisive than President Trump, according to a Morning Consult poll released Thursday. The survey showed 64 percent said the national news media has divided the country while 56 percent said that of Trump.
About a half hour into the speech, Trump praised the politicians who spoke ahead of him, including Gov. Mike Parson.
Before Trump arrived, Parson asked the crowd to cheer louder than at any other Trump rally and said Josh Hawley is the “rising son of Missouri” and McCaskill is the “setting sun of Missouri.”
Trump called Hawley to the stage for a three-minute speech. Hawley reminded the crowd that Trump won Missouri by almost 20 percent. Hawley also compared McCaskill to Trump’s opponent in the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton. The mention of Clinton’s name was met with deafening “lock her up” chants.
“Claire McCaskill said the reason Donald Trump was elected president was because of the Russians,” Hawley said. “What she doesn’t understand is that Donald Trump is president because of Missourians.”
Trump spent time attacking his opponents, to the delight of the crowd.
They laughed when he labeled all protesters as “Antifa” and belittled their personal lives.
“We don’t run around like Antifa with our arms in the air and then run back to Mommy’s basement,” he said.
On immigration, Trump again raised the specter of a massive invasion attempting to enter the United States illegally and promised the troops he was sending to the border would keep the caravan moving through Mexico from getting into the country.
“Democrats voted to cut Medicare to fund benefits for illegal aliens,” Trump said. “They want to sign them up for free health care, free welfare, free education and, of course, the right to vote.”
Trump also repeated his promise to end the 14th Amendment right to citizenship at birth, enacted at the end of the Civil War to protect the rights of recently-freed slaves.
“Hundreds of thousands of children born to illegal immigrants are made citizens every year because of this crazy, lunatic policy. We are going to end it,” Trump said.