By Ken Thomas
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump launched an eight-state campaign blitz on Wednesday, seeking to shore up Senate Republicans and GOP gubernatorial candidates against an onslaught of Democratic surrogates, including entertainment icon Oprah Winfrey.
Trump will crisscross the nation, landing him in Senate battlefields such as Indiana, Missouri and Florida along with nail-biter contests for governor in Georgia and Ohio.
Winfrey, who offered crucial support to President Barack Obama during his 2008 rise, will campaign Thursday for Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, who is attempting to become the nation’s first black female governor.
Obama plans to campaign Friday for Abrams in Atlanta and in Miami to boost Florida Sen. Bill Nelson and Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum, who is running for governor. On Sunday, the former president will be in Gary, Indiana, for Sen. Joe Donnelly, who is among the most endangered Senate Democrats, and in his hometown of Chicago for J.B. Pritzker, who is the favorite in Illinois’ race for governor.
Democrats are defending several Senate incumbents in Republican-leaning states in their quest to narrow the GOP’s 51-49 majority. The terrain is more favorable in the House, where Democrats need a net pickup of 23 seats to recapture the majority, and in several states with vulnerable Republican governors.
A look at midterm campaign activities Wednesday:
Trump slammed outgoing House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., tweeting that Ryan “should be focusing on holding the Majority” instead of weighing in on the president’s push to end the Constitution’s guarantee of birthright citizenship.
Trump tweeted that Ryan shouldn’t offer “his opinions on Birthright Citizenship, something he knows nothing about!”
Trump has said he can end the right to citizenship for babies born to non-U.S. citizens on American soil with an executive order. And he has argued that the right isn’t covered by the 14th Amendment, even though the text of the constitutional amendment says that “all persons born or naturalized” in the U.S. are citizens.
Ryan, who is retiring, said Tuesday that Trump couldn’t “end birthright citizenship with an executive order.”
The Libertarian candidate in Montana’s Senate race threw his support behind Republican Matt Rosendale in response to an election mailer from an unknown group that appears aimed at undermining Rosendale’s support among conservatives.
Rick Breckenridge said Wednesday that he doesn’t know the source of the mailer promoting him as a “true conservative” and claiming that Rosendale supports using drones to spy on private citizens.
Breckenridge said it was an attempt by so-called dark money groups to influence Montana’s election. He said he has decided to back Rosendale, who is in a tight race against two-term Democratic Sen. Jon Tester.
The mailer is reminiscent of tactics used by Democratic-friendly groups in Tester’s 2012 race to promote the Libertarian candidate and peel away Republican voters.
Vice President Mike Pence said during a stop in Ohio that the caravan of Central Americans walking toward the U.S. southern border represents “an assault on our country” and Republicans are “determined to end this crisis of illegal immigration once and for all.”
An estimated 4,000 Central American migrants have been walking across Mexico toward the U.S. border. The Defense Department has authorized the deployment of 5,200 troops to help along the U.S. border.
Pence was accompanied by Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, for a rally attended by several hundred people inside a hangar at an airport in Mansfield, Ohio.
It was aimed at helping Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, who is running for governor, Senate candidate Jim Renacci and Republican members of Congress.
Federal judges ordered Ohio to allow voters who had been purged for not voting over a six-year period to participate in this year’s election.
A divided 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel granted an emergency motion sought by voting-rights groups. The ruling overturned in part an Oct. 10 ruling by a federal judge that said voters haven’t been illegally purged from Ohio’s rolls.
Plaintiffs, led by the A. Philip Randolph Institute, lost their broader challenge in June to Ohio’s election administration process as unconstitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Ohio’s practices.
Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted said he wouldn’t fight the order, aiming to avoid “an unnecessary source of contention with election only five days away.”
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi declared late Tuesday that Democrats will win the House majority, predicting a “great night for America.”
Pelosi said in an interview with Stephen Colbert on “The Late Show” that “up until today, I would have said, ‘If the election were held today, we would win.'” Asked what had changed, Pelosi said, “What now I’m saying is we will win. We will win. We will win.”
Pelosi, who was the nation’s first female House speaker, could be in a position to reclaim the gavel in House leadership elections after the midterms.
More than 3.4 million people in Florida have already voted, surpassing the number who voted early or by mail four years ago.
New statistics released Wednesday by the state Division of Elections show registered Republicans still have the edge, casting 1.43 million ballots compared to nearly 1.37 million by registered Democrats. More than 592,000 voters with no party affiliation have voted.
More than 1.48 million people have voted early, and more than 1.9 million people have voted by mail. During the last midterm election, nearly 3.19 million Floridians cast their ballots before Election Day. More than 6.6 million voted early or voted by mail in the 2016 presidential election.
Florida has more than 13 million registered voters.