Trump fights to re­pel ‘blue wave’ as Democrats bat­tle to take back Sen­ate

The Sunday Telegraph - - Us Midterm Elections - By Ben Ri­ley-Smith US ED­I­TOR rime ge crat. y.” n ump se er at ves. etty lready s ta

Tin Martins­burg, West Vir­ginia he first thing you see in the room is Don­ald Trump. Thumbs up, white teeth locked in a grin. He has been here for months. “We love Trump!” gushes Betty DeHaven, look­ing up at the 6ft card­board cutout of Amer­ica’s 45th pres­i­dent. “I like that he is open. He says what he likes.”

At the Repub­li­can Party’s head­quar­ters in Martins­burg, a quaint town of some 20,000 peo­ple in West Vir­ginia, it seems Betsy, a 73-year-old vol­un­teer, is not alone.

Posters and leaflets for those run­ning in Tues­day’s midterm elec­tions boast of en­dorse­ments from the pres­i­dent. Some sim­ply carry the word TRUMP in let­ter­ing as large as the can­di­date’s own names. Ev­ery­thing is done to play up a link to the com­man­der-in-chief.

Walk three doors down the street and it is the same story, but in re­verse.

At the Demo­cratic Party’s lo­cal of­fice the pres­i­dent is con­spic­u­ous by his ab­sence.

The dozen posters plas­tered across the front of the for­mer depart­ment store carry no men­tion of Mr Trump. Leaflets stress the party’s link to vet­er­ans or record pro­tect­ing the coal in­dus­try, but avoid tak­ing aim at the Oval Of­fice.

The rea­son is ob­vi­ous. Mr Trump won West Vir­ginia big in 2016. He beat Hil­lary Clin­ton in every county – some­thing he man­aged in only one other state, Ok­la­homa. In fact, Mr Trump won by a jaw-drop­ping 42 per­cent­age points. Not since Abra­ham Lin­coln was re-elected dur­ing the civil war has there been such a con­vinc­ing pres­i­den­tial vic­tory here.

All of which is a prob­lem for Joe Manchin. The Demo­crat sen­a­tor has been rep­re­sent­ing this state since 2010 and hopes vot­ers will give him an­other six years next week.

His predica­ment is not unique. No fewer than 10 Demo­crat se­na­tors are up for re-elec­tion in states that Mr Trump won two years ago.

If all of them hang on, the Democrats have a shot at tak­ing the ma­jor­ity in the US Sen­ate, deal­ing Mr Trump a mas­sive blow. But if just a cou­ple fall short, that is all but im­pos­si­ble. It is one of the most sig­nif­i­cant dy­nam­ics in next week’s elec­tions.

The fight for po­lit­i­cal sur­vival has seen Mr Manchin – a 6ft 3in for­mer high school Amer­i­can foot­ball star – em­brace Mr Trump more than any other Demo­cratic col­league in the last two years.

The 71-year-old voted through many of Mr Trump’s cab­i­net picks de­spite Demo­cratic op­po­si­tion. He has talked about how much the pair chat on the phone.

And, last month, Mr Manchin did some­thing no other Demo­crat would do – he voted for Brett Ka­vanaugh, the pres­i­dent’s con­tro­ver­sial pick for Supreme Court jus­tice.

The de­ci­sion hor­ri­fied lib­er­als, who saw the ac­cu­sa­tion of sex­ual as­sault dur­ing a high school party lev­elled at Mr Ka­vanaugh – which he de­nied – as dis­qual­i­fy­ing.

But speak­ing dur­ing a cam­paign de­bate on Thurs­day night, Mr Manchin framed his vote as a pos­i­tive. “He had ex­pe­ri­ence,” Mr Manchin said of Mr Ka­vanaugh.

“His whole ré­sumé was great. His ed­u­ca­tion, his stand­ing in the com­mu­nity – ev­ery­thing looked good.” The sen­a­tor added that the ac­cu­sa­tion had been in­ves­ti­gated by the FBI, which found no cor­rob­o­rat­ing ev­i­dence.

Cur­rent signs of Mr Manchin’s strat­egy of woo­ing Re­pub­li­cans are easy to spot. One cam­paign ad­vert shows him aim­ing a gun and shoot­ing Barack Obama’s “cap and trade” bill to limit green­house gases.

An­other ad­vert, en­ti­tled “Free­dom”, shows him rid­ing a mo­tor­cy­cle through West Vir­ginian coun­try­side. A third boasts that he is rated the most in­de­pen­dent sen­a­tor on Capi­tol Hill.

And, re­mark­ably, it ap­pears to be work­ing. With just days to go Mr Manchin is a few points ahead of his Repub­li­can ri­val Pa­trick Mor­risey, the state’s at­tor­ney gen­eral, in the polls.

But on Fri­day, Mr Trump flew in hop­ing to change all that. Hold­ing a rally in Hunt­ing­ton, he ush­ered Mr Mor­risey on stage, prais­ing his en­ergy on the cam­paign trail.

The pres­i­dent mocked Mr Manchin for only an­nounc­ing his sup­port for Mr Ka­vanaugh once enough votes were se­cured for him to be con­firmed thanks to Repub­li­can se­na­tors.

‘A blue wave equals a crime wave. A red wave equals jobs and safety’

Mr Trump also re­turned to fa­mil­iar themes, re­peat­ing warn­ings about the mi­grant car­a­vans ap­proach­ing hing the south­ern border.

“A blue wave equals a crime wave,” Mr Trump said, in a mes­sage to those con­sid­er­ing vot­ing Demo­crat. “A red wave equals jobs and safety.”

Sim­i­lar scenes have been play­ing out for weeks, with Mr Trump far sur­pass­ing his White House pre­de­ces­sors in the num­ber of midterm cam­paign events he is hold­ing.

No fewer than 11 cam­paign gn stops in the fi­nal week are planned – zero­ing in on Sen­ate races amid signs that the Re­pub­li­cans ex­pect to lose the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

Back in Martins­burg, Betty was gut­ted to miss the pres­i­dent’s visit. She has al­ready at­tended two Trump ral­lies this year but wanted to make it a hat-trick.

“I would have loved to have gone,” she said, while the pres­i­dent’s card­board cutout out looked on. Whether other Trump vot­ers re­main as loyal yal may well de­ter­mine who holds the Sen­ate.

Sol­diers bol­ster the Texas border with Mex­ico at Hi­dalgo, as or­dered by the pres­i­dent

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