President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence smile as former basketball coach Bob Knight speaks to an overflow crowd at a campaign rally at Southport High School, Friday, Nov. 2, 2018, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Trump rallies for 2018 Republicans _ with an eye toward 2020

November 02, 2018 - 9:28 pm

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — President Donald Trump campaigned back-to-back Friday as he launched a feverish push to help elect Republicans in next week's voting — but he also looked ahead to facing off against "one of the lefties" he expects to challenge his re-election effort in 2020.

Trump opened a rally at an Indianapolis high school by highlighting the news from earlier Friday that the economy had added another 250,000 jobs in October. He also talked about the low unemployment rate.

"More Americans are working right now, today, in this country, than have ever worked in this country before," Trump said. "That's going to be fun on the debate stage when we debate one of the lefties. And they're going to be saying what a good job they're going to do by raising your taxes. ... You know, I think we're going to win that debate."

He didn't name any of the Democrats who are thought to be considering challenging Trump in two years, but at past rallies the president has singled out such Democrats as Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts for criticism.

Trump came to Indiana to campaign for Republican Senate candidate Mike Braun, a former state representative and businessman who is putting up a stiff challenge to Democratic incumbent Joe Donnelly.

Trump said Donnelly, a first-term senator, was ineffective and referred to him as "Sleepin' Joe." While Donnelly has sought to highlight his cooperation with Trump on issues such as immigration, he voted against last year's tax cuts and this year voted against Trump's choice of Brett Kavanaugh to fill a vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Braun said, "Let's retire Joe Donnelly."

In response, Donnelly said he looked forward to welcoming Trump again next year "after I'm re-elected on Tuesday."

Trump has scheduled seven more rallies — in Montana, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Ohio, Indiana and Missouri — through Election Day.

Friday's Indiana event received an added jolt from Vice President Mike Pence, who represented Indiana in Congress and as governor, and Bobby Knight, the Hall of Fame former head coach of the Indiana University men's basketball team.

At an airport rally earlier Friday in Huntington, West Virginia, Trump opened the final sprint to the midterms by defending his decision to tweet a video warning of people crossing into the U.S. illegally at the border with Mexico. Democrats and Republicans blasted the video as "racist."

Trump said critics had given him a "hard time" about the video, which featured a Mexican migrant in a courtroom, smiling and boasting about having killed police officers.

But Trump said, "All I'm doing is just telling the truth."

The video alleges without evidence that Democrats were responsible for allowing Luis Bracamontes into the U.S. The twice-deported immigrant from Mexico was sentenced to death in California for the 2014 killings of two police officers.

The video also includes scenes of a migrant caravan that is moving toward the U.S., but is still hundreds of miles away from the border. It ominously warns, "Who else would Democrats let in?" and suggests more violence will soon penetrate the border.

Trump's aggressive travel schedule over the next several days is aimed at boosting GOP Senate candidates as the party tries to expand its 51-49 Senate majority, rather than working to defend embattled Republicans in the House, where the party's control appears in doubt.

In West Virginia, Trump campaigned for Republican Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, who is in a tight race against Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin. Trump told the crowd cheering him from inside a hangar that "Joe will never be with us. He's never going to vote for us."

But Trump didn't present a complete picture of Manchin's voting record.

On major issues, Manchin did join Democrats in voting against the tax cuts, but he broke with his caucus and supported both of Trump's Supreme Court nominees: Neil Gorsuch and Kavanaugh.

Trump has been using his campaign rallies to warn his Republican base of what he argues are the negative consequences of Democratic control of Congress. He has been stoking GOP anger over the Democrats' handling of Kavanaugh's confirmation hearings and fears of illegal immigration as the migrant caravan slowly advances toward the U.S.-Mexico border.

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Associated Press writer Zeke Miller in Washington contributed to this report.

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