Trump campaigns in Pennsylvania as hurricane hits Florida

  • President Donald Trump boards Air Force One for a campaign rally in Erie, Pa., Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018, in Andrews Air Force Base, Md. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

  • Supporters of President Donald Trump stand for the national anthem during a campaign rally at Erie Insurance Arena, Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018, in Erie, Pa. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

ERIE, Pa. — As Hurricane Michael pounded the Southeast on Wednesday, President Donald Trump took shelter at a campaign rally in Pennsylvania, where he sought to boost Republicans before the midterms.

Trump acknowledged the hurricane at the top of his rally in Erie, offering his “thoughts and prayers” to those in the storm’s path and promising to “spare no effort” in the response. He promised to travel to Florida “very shortly.”

He added: “We will always pull through. … We will always be successful at what we do.”

Before he left Washington, Trump had said he faced a “quagmire” because “thousands of people” were already lined up for the event. After landing ahead of a fundraiser and rally, he said the situation was being “very well covered” and that he’d be back to Washington shortly.

During a hurricane briefing at the White House, Trump discussed the power of the storm. His Homeland Security secretary and the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency described it as a “Gulf Coast hurricane of the worst kind.”

To people in the path of the storm, Trump said: “God bless you all. That’s my message. Because that’s what it is. The storm is there.”

Last month, Trump canceled rallies in Mississippi and Missouri because of Hurricane Florence, which hit the Carolinas.

Republican Reps. Mike Kelly and Lou Barletta are expected to attend the Pennsylvania rally. Kelly is facing a challenge from Democrat Ron DiNicola, while Barletta is mounting an uphill campaign to unseat two-term Democratic Sen. Bob Casey. Trump, who narrowly won Pennsylvania in 2016, has made repeated visits to the state.

Staring down tough midterm elections, the president has been escalating attacks on Democrats, including publishing an op-ed in USA Today that attacked Democrats over “Medicare for All” health care proposals.

In his op-ed, Trump said Democrats have moved away from centrism, claiming the “new Democrats are radical socialists who want to model America’s economy after Venezuela.”

He added: “Government-run health care is just the beginning. Democrats are also pushing massive government control of education, private-sector businesses and other major sectors of the U.S. economy.”

Trump’s attack on “Medicare for All” omits any mention of improved benefits for seniors that Democrats promise.

“Medicare for All” means different things to different Democrats. The plan pushed by Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent who challenged Hillary Clinton for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, would expand Medicare to cover almost everyone in the country, and current Medicare recipients would get improved benefits. Other Democratic plans would allow people to buy into a new government system modeled on Medicare, moving toward the goal of coverage for all while leaving private insurance in place.

Democrats, who think health care is a winning issue going into the midterms, also sought to focus voter attention Wednesday. In the Senate, Democrats unsuccessfully sought to scuttle Trump’s push for short-term health insurance plans, which are less expensive but provide skimpier coverage. While the vote failed, Democrats think the move will help them in November.

The president is also invoking the blistering Supreme Court nomination of Justice Brett Kavanaugh as he campaigns. On a high since successfully winning his second confirmation to the court, Trump drew applause in Iowa for supporting Kavanaugh against Democrats seeking to sink the nomination. Trump and other GOP leaders say the effort energized Republican voters, who had been considered less motivated than Democrats heading into the midterms.

“This is truly an historic week for America,” said Trump, praising Republican senators for standing up to what he called “the Democrats’ shameful campaign of political and personal destruction” against his nominee.

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