At Greater Cincinnati Appearance, Trump Promotes Chabot, Asks for Black Votes, Tells Tricky Historical Parable

At his Oct. 12 rally to support U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot's reelection bid, President Donald Trump veered from subject to subject but heaped plenty of praise on the Republican congressman.

click to enlarge President Donald Trump at a 2016 campaign rally - Nick Swartsell
Nick Swartsell
President Donald Trump at a 2016 campaign rally
President Donald Trump dropped by Greater Cincinnati on Friday (Oct. 12) to promote a couple Ohio GOP congressional contenders. While he was here, he touted the economy, urged African-Americans to vote for him and also told a somewhat convoluted parable that involved Confederate general Robert E. Lee.

Trump’s main purpose in holding a rally at the Warren County Fairgrounds seems to have been to buttress U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot’s reelection bid. Chabot, a 22-year veteran of Congress, faces a challenge from Democrat Hamilton County Clerk of Courts Aftab Pureval, who has out-raised the veteran Republican. Chabot needs high turnout in Republican Warren County to stave off a likely large margin for Pureval in Hamilton County, which in recent years has shifted toward Democrats.

Trump heaped praise on Chabot.

“A vote for Steve Chabot is a vote to protect your family, your jobs and your country,” Trump said, underscoring a long-time theme around safety and fear of crime.

Chabot for his part kept his comments short. But he did find time to praise musician Kanye West, a recent Trump acolyte who earlier this week had a strange, stream-of-consciousness meeting with Trump and news media in the Oval Office. Trump has used West's support to try and gain more support from black voters.

“Get away from the Democrats,” Trump said at the rally. “Think of it: We have the best numbers in history... I think we’re going to get the African American vote.”

Chabot joined in the West love fest.

“I never thought I’d say this, but, God bless Kanye West,” Chabot told the crowd.

Trump waded into other Ohio races, blasting Democratic Party gubernatorial candidate Richard Cordray as “(U.S. Sen.) Elizabeth Warren’s far left disciple” and praising his opponent Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine. Trump also brought out U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci, who is challenging Democrat U.S. Sherrod Brown for his seat this year. Renacci, like Chabot, kept his remarks short and light, staying out of the way of the Trump show.

Trump’s speech meandered through a number of different points, and at one moment, the president settled on the Civil War. During this part of his remarks, he called the confederacy’s Robert E. Lee a “great general,” saying the north could not defeat him until Clermont County native Ulysses F. Grant got hired to lead the Union Army, despite his reputation as something of a drunk. It’s unclear what the exact point of the historically-fuzzy anecdote was, but Trump’s critics have seized upon the remarks about Lee, though Trump appears to have been praising Grant.

“Donald Trump came to our community, came to our city, came to our neighborhoods and praised Robert E. Lee, a Confederate general,” Chabot rival Pureval said Sunday at a get-out-the-vote event in Avondale, according to the Cincinnati Business Courier. “Our representative, Steve Chabot, did he call him out? Did he criticize the president for celebrating a man like Lee? No. He praised him. He said a vote for Chabot is a vote for Trump. That’s exactly right. A vote for Chabot is a vote for Trump.”

Besides stumping for Republicans in local races, Trump spent time providing his usual commentary — boisterous, boasting and sometimes hyperbolic. He talked up the resurgence of the steel industry in Ohio — a few mills across the state have announced multi-million-dollar expansions — but failed to mention that tariffs on steel and other products his administration has put into place have cost automotive manufacturer Ford more than $1 billion and could lead to layoffs. He also boasted about the nation's low unemployment rate — currently at 3.7 percent. The rate, however, began declining precipitously during the tenure of his predecessor.

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