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CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) — President Donald Trump implored his supporters to vote on Tuesday, saying the media will treat the midterm results as a referendum on his presidency.
“Even though I’m not on the ballot, in a certain way I am on the ballot,” Trump said during a tele-town hall organized by his re-election campaign Monday to encourage Republicans to get out and vote. “The press is very much considering it a referendum on me and us as a movement.”
The comments came as Trump prepared for a final, three-state rally blitz as he tries to keep Congress in Republican control and stave off losses that could profoundly change his presidency. Trump’s closing argument has largely focused on fear — warning, with no evidence, that a Democratic takeover would throw the country into chaos, spurring an influx of illegal immigration and a wave of crime.
And on Monday, he made the case that if Democrats win, they will work to roll back everything he’s tried to accomplish. “It’s all fragile,” he said on the call.
Trump will be holding his final three get-out-the-vote rallies Monday in Ohio, Indiana and Missouri — a day after stops in Tennessee and Georgia, where the president’s closing argument to voters was on stark display as he sought to motivate complacent Republicans to the polls by stoking fears about the prospects of Democratic control.
“You want to see Georgia prosperity end?” Trump told the rally crowd in Macon, Georgia. “Vote for the Democrat.” Trump’s remarks included ominous references to the “Antifa” far-left-leaning militant groups and a migrant caravan marching toward the U.S.-Mexico border that he has called an “invasion.”
Appearing before thousands in an overflowing aircraft hangar in Macon for Republican gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp, Trump declared, “There’s electricity in the air like I haven’t seen since ’16.”
“This is a very important election,” he added. “I wouldn’t say it’s as important as ’16, but it’s right up there.”
But Trump earlier in the day appeared to distance himself from the fate of House Republican candidates. Speaking to reporters as he left the White House en route to his rallies, Trump seemed to dampen expectations for his party in the House.
“I think we’re going to do well in the House,” he said of Tuesday’s races. “But, as you know, my primary focus has been on the Senate, and I think we’re doing really well in the Senate.”
The comments marked the starkest indication that Trump has grown less optimistic about the GOP’s chances of retaining control of the House, where Republicans face greater headwinds than in the Senate.
Still, he told reporters before boarding Air Force One that “tremendous crowds” were already awaiting him in both states. He said that enthusiasm was off the charts, though polls have shown Democrats to have an enthusiasm edge.
“The level of fervor, the level of fever is very strong in the Republican side,” said Trump, adding: “I have never seen such excitement. Maybe back in ’16 during the presidential, right around the vote. But I have never seen such an enthusiastic Republican Party.”
In Chattanooga, Tennessee, to bolster the prospects of Republican Senate candidate Marsha Blackburn, Trump once again warned that caravans of immigrants are on their way to flood across the southern border.
“That’s an invasion. I don’t care what they say,” Trump said to cheers. He received similar applause when promoting the economy, unemployment numbers and judicial appointments.
When Blackburn took the stage briefly, she told supporters, “If you want to vote no to Hillary Clinton and her cronies one more time, stand with me.” The crowd responded with the chant, “Lock her up!”
Trump also pushed back on the idea that the election was a referendum on his presidency and that Democrats reclaiming the House would be a rebuke of him and his policies.
“No, I don’t view this as for myself,” Trump said, before making the case that his campaigning has “made a big difference” in a handful of Senate races across the country.
“I think I’ve made a difference of five or six or seven. That’s a big difference,” he said, crediting his rallies for the influence.
In an interview with The Associated Press last month, Trump said he would not accept blame for a GOP defeat at the polls.
“These rallies are the best thing we’ve done. I think that the rallies have really been the thing that’s caused this whole big fervor to start and to continue,” he said.
Trump has had a busy campaign schedule in the final stretch of the race, with 11 rallies over six days. In the final stretch Trump has brought out special guests to join him on the campaign trail. In Georgia he introduced former University of Georgia football Coach Vince Dooley to address the crowd of supporters.
Country singer Lee Greenwood performed Trump favorite “God Bless the USA” in Chattanooga and was expected to appear Monday with the president in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. Fox News personality Sean Hannity and conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh will also be appearing at the Missouri rally, Trump’s re-election campaign announced Sunday.
Trump plans to spend Election Day conducting get-out-the-vote interviews with local media at the White House, where he is set to watch returns come in.
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