Milwaukee — Making his first stop of 2020 in a state that many believe is key to his reelection hopes, President Trump on Tuesday touted his trade policies as a win for Wisconsin.
Critics have suggested Trump’s trade policies, particularly toward China, are at least partly to blame for the dairy farms Wisconsin has lost during his administration and for weak spots in the manufacturing industry.
But Trump told supporters at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena his new trade deals will benefit the state.
Trump called the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade deal poised for Senate approval “a giant victory for Wisconsin workers, farmers and dairy producers.”
And he said on Wednesday he will sign phase one of a trade deal with China, “massively boosting exports of products made and produced right here in the great state of Wisconsin.”
He noted America and Wisconsin are seeing record-low unemployment rates. The state’s unemployment rate dropped to 2.8 percent in April — the lowest it’s been in state data that goes back to 1976 — but has since ticked up to 3.3 percent in November.
“In Wisconsin, the unemployment rate has reached its lowest level in history,” Trump said, adding “that’s because we got a lot of help from a guy named Scott Walker,” referencing the former GOP guv who lost his reelection bid in 2018, and U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh.
Trump’s appearance was just blocks from the Fiserv Forum, where Dems will meet in July for their national convention to formally nominate their selection to face the president. It was his first stop in six months in the state he won in 2016 by fewer than 23,000 votes. And it coincided with the final Dem debate ahead of the Iowa caucuses.
During the roughly 90-minute speech, Trump praised Wisconsin GOP officials and urged the crowd to back conservative state Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly, who is up for a full 10-year term in the April election. He said Kelly “will defend the rule of law in Wisconsin.”
About a third of the way through his address, he called Wisconsin’s GOP congressional delegation up to the stage, along with Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, Senate President Roger Roth and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos. He also invited on the stage former U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy and Reince Priebus, who served as chair of the Wisconsin and national Republican parties before becoming Trump’s first chief of staff. The president fired Priebus six months into his term.
“This is a great group of Republican people, and most importantly, it’s a great group of winners,” Trump said.
Trump handed the podium over to Johnson, who praised Trump’s work ethic.
“I have never seen a man work harder, so dedicated, in love with America,” Johnson said. “That’s why we need to see him win a second term.”
Protesters interrupted Trump’s speech several times, who faced boos from the crowd and chants of U.S.A. as they were escorted out.
Outside the arena, several groups of protestors converged to voice their disapproval of the president, holding signs and pulling strings to keep a massive inflatable Trump upright.
Some groups were made up of activists unhappy with the administration’s actions on vaping, while other groups were less focused on specific policies and more comprised of people who just want a different president.
“If the Democrats wanted to nominate a smoking monkey, I’d vote for them,” said protestor Patrick Doornek. “Anyone but Trump.”
Besides his Wisconsin-related comments, Trump focused heavily on the national security and the economy while taking a few jabs at the Dem presidential field and the effort to impeach him, which he called a “hoax.”
Trump said he “fully rebuilt” America’s military, which he called “more powerful than ever.”
He praised the military for carrying out a “flawless, precision strike that killed the number one terrorist” Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, who he called the “king of the roadside bombs.”
“Great percentages of people don’t have legs right now and arms because of this son of a bitch,” Trump said. “And the Democrats should be outraged by Soleimani’s evil crimes, not the decision to end his wretched life.”
He said Soleimani “was responsible for murdering and wounding thousands of Americans and was actively planning new attacks, but we stopped them cold,” he said to applause.
On the economy, he noted record-breaking stock market performance, historically low unemployment, rising wages, and reduced regulations and taxes.
He said America has created 7 million jobs since he took office, including 1 million jobs in manufacturing and construction.
He noted income at bottom 10 percent is rising faster than those at the top 10 percent, in what he referred to as a “blue-collar boom.”
“As we begin the year, our economy is booming, wages are rising, poverty is plummeting, crime is falling and America is the envy of the entire world,” Trump said during the opening of his address.
During a more lighthearted portion of Trump’s speech, he railed against environmental regulations that led to compact fluorescent lightbulbs, which he said are hazardous waste than nobody disposes of properly, and water flow restrictors on faucets, showerheads and dishwashers.
“The new lightbulb costs you five times as much, and it makes you look orange,” he quipped. “And I was more interested in the orange than I was the cost.”
He said he brought back incandescent bulbs so they’re available to those that want them.
He called new dishwashers “pieces of garbage” that spray too little water to clean dishes properly, resulting in people running multiple cycles and ultimately using more water and energy than with older models.
And he mocked new toilets, faucets and showerheads, saying they allow too little water use to be effective.
“You go into a shower, I have this beautiful head of hair, I need a lot of water,” he quipped. “And you go into the shower, right? You turn on the water: drip, drip, drip.”
He said he’s ending the requirement for those types of products to include flow restrictors.
Vice President Mike Pence spoke ahead of Trump, touting the administration’s accomplishments to frequent applause.
He highlighted Trump’s response to the attack against the U.S. embassy in Iraq.
“When militants stormed the embassy in Baghdad, this president sent in the Marines and he said ‘no more Benghazis,'” Pence said to applause.
He also noted Trump ordered the killing of Soleimani, whom he called a terrorist.
He said Iran responded by launching missiles at bases in Iraq that housed U.S. troops, which led to no U.S. casualties. He said Iran is now standing down.
“That’s what leadership looks like, Wisconsin,” he said to applause and chants of U.S.A.
Ahead of the rally, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barret and WisDems leadership today slammed Trump for his promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
“He might want to dress it up, but he loves talking about how much he hates Obamacare,” Barrett said Tuesday morning. “But what he hasn’t done at all is offer anything to replace it.”
Barrett said that “millions of Americans are at peril” if Trump manages to repeal the ACA and its protections for those with preexisting conditions. He said Trump and the GOP offer a lot of “noise and chatter” on healthcare but any concrete plan “doesn’t exist.”
He said Dems need to “first and foremost” focus on healthcare to win in 2020, calling it “one of the issues that clearly separates the parties.”