Ostensibly in Alabama to boost the campaign of Sen. Luther Strange, President Donald Trump held forth for over an hour at a Friday night rally on topics including North Korea’s nuclear program, health care, Hillary Clinton, and the National Football League, at one point even promising the crowd that he would campaign for Strange’s opponent if he lost the primary.
“I told Luther if his opponent wins, I’ll be here campaigning like hell for him,” Trump told the Huntsville crowd, referring to former Alabama Supreme Court chief justice Roy Moore. He said Moore and Strange were “both good men.”
The Cotton State’s GOP primary has drawn national attention because it pits two pro-Trump candidates, one establishment and one decidedly not, against each other. Sarah Palin and former White House adviser Sebastian Gorka held a rally this week for the ardently Christian firebrand Moore, who was suspended for refusing marriage license applications for same-sex couples. Trump, in a surprise move, aligned himself with Strange, the establishment favorite backed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).
At the Huntsville rally, Trump tried to shift this perception, insisting that Strange would not do McConnell’s bidding.
“He doesn’t know Mitch McConnell at all. Luther is a tough cookie,” Trump said. “He doesn’t kowtow to anybody.”
But the President didn’t exactly stay on-message, telling the audience that he was “taking a big risk” by involving himself in the primary because Strange, who has consistently trailed in the polls, could very well lose.
“I shouldn’t be doing it—the last thing I want to do is be involved in a primary,” Trump said, adding, “I might have made a mistake.”
Seconds later, though, he insisted Strange was “going to win easily” and could easily defeat a Democrat in the December general election.
The six-foot-nine Strange, who Trump said he had taken to calling “Big Luther,” faces a difficult road to victory in Tuesday’s primary. The Washington Post reported that many supporters who packed the Von Braun Center were only there to see Trump and told the newspaper that they planned to vote for Moore.
“I don’t know who this guy is,” one Afghanistan war veteran told the Post of Strange. “I’m here for Trump.”
Those who showed up for a classic Trump rally got what they wanted.
The President again weighed in on North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un’s efforts to build nuclear weapons, calling him “Little Rocket Man” and assuring the audience that he was “going to handle it.”
He told the crowd, who broke into “Lock her up” chants when Trump mentioned Clinton’s name, to “speak to Jeff Sessions about that.”
Invoking his signature border wall, Trump said that it “has to be see-through” so that no criminals in “wonderful, wonderful” Mexico hit anyone on the U.S. side in the head when they catapult “a hundred pounds of drugs” over it.
And he spoke at length about NFL players protesting police brutality and racism by refusing to stand during the national anthem, calling it a “total disrespect of our heritage.”
Team owners should respond to those players, Trump said, by saying, “Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, he’s fired. He’s fired!”
“For a week, (that owner would) be the most popular person in this country,” the President continued, “because that’s a total disrespect of our heritage. That’s a total disrespect for everything we stand for.
The crowd began trickling out early after Trump’s speech exceeded an hour, according to the Post. Strange, the candidate, had spoken for only four minutes.