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Trump’s western swing cements ties with Gardner and McSally

The tour provides plenty of material for campaign ads and fundraising blasts for down-ballot races

Trump supporters get the attention of drivers as they pass by outside of the University of Las Vegas on Sunday.
Trump supporters get the attention of drivers as they pass by outside of the University of Las Vegas on Sunday. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

President Donald Trump is returning to Washington after a western swing that will provide plenty of material for campaign ads and fundraising blasts for down-ballot races.

Republican Sens. Martha McSally of Arizona and Cory Gardner of Colorado had already ensured they would be tied to the president when they voted to acquit him on two articles of impeachment during the Senate trial earlier this month.

But this week’s Trump campaign rallies in Phoenix and Colorado Springs, respectively, leave no doubt and provide ideal video for the senators to appeal to core Trump supporters ⁠— and for their opponents to use as well.

“There’s so much at stake. My opponent said he would vote to convict and remove you from office, and remove you from the 2020 ballot,” McSally said when invited on the rally stage Wednesday night.

“Arizona is tired of investigations, they’re tired of obstructions, they don’t want socialism, they love our freedoms,” she said. “Mark Kelly is flying on Bernie Sanders‘ wing and I’m flying on your wing, President Trump, and we’re going to win in November.”

The next night, Trump flew from his western base of operations in Las Vegas to Colorado Springs, where he offered a full endorsement of Gardner.

Gardner, for his part, used his time at the microphone to praise Trump administration moves to set up Space Force Command at his home state’s Peterson Air Force Base, as well as to move the headquarters of the Bureau of Land Management to Colorado.

A common messaging theme was about the fear of “socialism” and the potential for Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., to be the Democratic nominee for president.

“We are going to win because we will fight against the socialist tides across this country,” Gardner said on stage. “The Democrats are trying, but they’re not going to win.”

While Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election might be viewed in geopolitical terms as the most dangerous development of the cycle, Gardner (who was chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee) pointed to something in the Democratic primary process.

“The most dangerous thing was the normalization of socialism by Bernie Sanders,” Gardner said. “They want to take our guns, they want to take our health care. That’s their platform.”

Former Gov. John Hickenlooper, who has the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee’s backing to challenge Gardner this year, was fundraising off the president’s visit.

“Donald Trump just left the stage after hosting a lavish fundraiser and rally for my Republican opponent — reminding Colorado voters tonight that Senator Cory Gardner ‘has been with us 100%,'” a fundraising blast said.

Trump finished off the western swing with a campaign rally Friday in Las Vegas, and he already has another one scheduled for next Friday night in North Charleston, South Carolina. That is on the eve of the South Carolina primary.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham, who has become one of Trump’s closest allies, is on the ballot in 2020. Another rally is scheduled for March 2 in Charlotte, North Carolina.

In addition to being the host city of the 2020 Republican National Convention in August, Republican Sen. Thom Tillis is up for reelection in the state.

[GOP group pays for ads in Democratic NC primary]

The Trump campaign contends that the rallies in states with vulnerable Republican incumbent senators will be a boon for those senators.

“President Trump intends to win the states he won in 2016 as well as states where he came close. Where the President does well, all Republicans on the ballot will do well,” said Trump-Pence campaign spokesman Ken Farnaso. “With the support of Congressional Republicans, President Trump has delivered on promise after promise to the American people. Our communities are safer, the economy is booming, and we are just getting started.“

Some policy also emerged from the stage at the Trump rally in Arizona, with McSally announcing that she would follow the president’s call on drug pricing from the State of the Union.

“I heard your call. You said to put a bill on your desk that’s going to lower prescription drug prices, and I’m going to introduce a bill next week to get that done, to help all Americans lower the cost of drugs,” McSally said Wednesday.

On Friday, McSally’s official office followed up with an outline of the legislation. According to a summary, she wants to allow Medicare to negotiate prices for prescription drugs that still have only one manufacturer even though they are past original patent expiration.

The bill is also expected to revive a familiar proposal to allow the reimportation of prescription drugs from Canada.

Democrats have criticized Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., for not bringing up for consideration a House-passed bill designed to reduce the price of pharmaceuticals and use some of the savings to expand Medicare to cover vision, hearing and dental care.

Just before recess, Finance Chairman Charles E. Grassley of Iowa told reporters that he needs support from 25 Senate Republicans to convince McConnell to schedule a vote on a bipartisan Senate measure.

But Grassley placed the onus to secure a vote on himself. “If I don’t get this up, it’s my fault,” Grassley said.

McSally has already been supporting the Finance Committee bill, which is led by Grassley and ranking Democrat Ron Wyden of Oregon.

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