President Donald Trump urged Arizonans to send Martha McSally to the U.S. Senate, calling her an American hero who led airstrikes against the Taliban while describing Democratic nominee Kyrsten Sinema as an extremist who is soft on terrorism and border security.
Speaking at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport on Friday evening, Trump told the crowd of thousands that a vote for McSally would be the second best vote they ever made, after their votes for him in 2016.
“You deserve a senator who truly loves your state and loves to fight for your state and will never let you down. And that leader is, indeed, Martha McSally,” Trump said. “And Martha’s opponent is a far-left extremist name Kyrsten Sinema. You know who she is? She’s being protected by the fake news back there.”
Trump reminded the crowd that early voting is underway in Arizona, and joked that he wouldn’t mind if people left his rally to go cast their ballots. He said early ballot returns show McSally “pretty much ahead.”
No results have been made public and it’s impossible to say with any certainty who’s leading, though Trump may have been referring to recent numbers from the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office showing Republicans with significant edge in returning their early ballots.
Partway through the president’s speech, McSally joined Trump on stage. McSally reiterated her recent attacks against Sinema, who’s faced a barrage of criticism over the past few weeks, largely for inflammatory comments and actions from her days as a left-wing radical, which included protesting against the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan following the 9/11 terror attacks.
Most recently, Sinema has come under fire for a 2003 radio interview with a Libertarian talk show host in which she told him that she didn’t care if he joined the Taliban, and for a later comment, after she’d been in the state Legislature for years, in which she called Arizona’s Republican leaders “crazy” and echoed comedy host Jon Stewart’s joke that Arizona is the “meth lab of democracy.”
“I just wanted to let you know, we are not crazy here. Unlike what my opponent says, we are not a meth lab of democracy,” McSally said to start her speech.
McSally reminded the crowd that, after 9/11, she was flying airstrikes against the Taliban while Sinema was protesting in a pink tutu. But she also warned of the differences between the two congresswomen on more conventional partisan issues. She said she would have voted to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court, while Sinema would have voted against him. McSally voted for Trump’s tax cut package, she said, while Sinema voted against it. And McSally said she supports the president’s border security, while Sinema opposes them.
“There is so much more to do and there are so high stakes in this election. And we are down to the wire to make sure that we keep and grow the Senate majority,” McSally said.
McSally noted that Mary Ann Mendoza was in the crowd. Her son, Brandon — McSally faced criticism on social media for reapeatedly calling him “Brian” — was a sergeant with the Mesa Police Department when he was killed by a wrong-way drunk driver who was in the country illegally. Mary Ann Mendoza has questioned why the driver wasn’t previously deported, and has since advocated for tougher immigration laws.
“This is personal for Mary Ann. This is personal for us in Arizona,” McSally said.
Since being elected to Congress in 2014 to represent a Tucson-area district, McSally has positioned herself as a moderate Republican. But since becoming a candidate for the Senate, she has made herself over as a strong Trump ally, despite publicly criticizing him in 2016 after a tape of the then-candidate leaked in which he bragged about using his celebrity status to sexually assault women. McSally has also refused to say if she voted for Trump over Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Gov. Doug Ducey, who spoke before the president arrived, touted the Republican Party’s statewide slate in Arizona. But he focused especially on McSally, who is locked in a tight race and has trailed Sinema in numerous polls, though by a small margin in most.
Ducey said it’s Republicans’ job to remind Arizonans what’s at stake in the upcoming election, especially in the U.S. Senate. And that, he said, starts with electing McSally.
Ducey, who is typically a reserved speaker, was uncharacteristically fired up in his speech. He also used the event to take a swipe at his Democratic opponent, David Garcia, who will rally with U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders on Tuesday.
“That’s who we have here,” Ducey said, referring to Trump. “So, who do the Democrats have here in Arizona? None other than democratic socialist Bernie Sanders. Did you believe it? These guys are actually proud to stand with Bernie Sanders. Would you be proud to stand with Bernie Sanders?”
Trump devoted much of his speech to his core issues illegal immigration and border security, pledging to build his long-promised border wall and warning that, if Democrats win control of Congress in November, they’ll bring “radical socialism and open borders” policies that will invite dangerous criminal aliens into the country.
And he accused Democrats of wanting to abolish U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which became a rallying cry this year with some on the left. He said ICE agents “liberate towns” from criminal and members of gangs like the notorious MS-13, “really bad people” whom the president said “don’t like using guns — they’d much rather use knives because it’s much more painful and slower.”
“Democrats believe this country should be a giant sanctuary city,” Trump said. “They want it to be a big, fat, beautiful sanctuary city — the whole country, for criminal aliens.”
Trump touted other accomplishments, focusing on his tax cuts, deregulation, strong economy, and Supreme Court appointments.
He cautioned the crowd that, despite his successes, everything could go away if Democrats win the midterms, noting that the party in control of the presidency nearly always loses seats in midterm elections. Trump repeatedly invoked the names of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, the likely speaker of a Democratic House, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, whom he called “Cryin’ Chuck,” saying they’ll be in control in the event of a Democratic victory.
“The choice for every American could not be more clear. Democrats produce mobs. Republicans produce jobs,” Trump said.
At one point, Trump set his sights on one of his favorite targets, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Trump has long mocked Warren for claiming Native American heritage, calling her “Pocahontas.” But after Warren released the results of a DNA test on Monday indicating that she’s between 1/64 and 1/1024 Native American, Trump joked that he’ll have to retire the racial epithet, and said he has more Indian blood than she does.
“We can no longer say Pocahontas. She has no Indian blood,” he said. “I don’t know what I’m going to do. We’ll have to come up with another name for her.”