- The Washington Times - Monday, June 25, 2018

President Trump revved up his base Monday in South Carolina, urging them to get behind Gov. Henry McMaster just hours before a GOP runoff election, saying he needed help to keep the winning streak going.

He also joked that his own reputation was on the line, although the jest had more than a trace of truth in it.

If Mr. McMaster lost, he said, the news media would call it a “humiliation” and “major setback” for the president.

“So please get your asses out tomorrow and vote,” the president said to cheers and applause from about 1,000 people in the gymnasium of Airport High School in Columbia.

He touted his administration’s progress on tightening the border, fighting crime, strengthening the military and protecting the Second Amendment — an agenda he said Mr. McMaster shared.

“We’re winning with our military, we’re winning on trade, we are defending our borders because if you don’t have borders, you don’t have a country,” the president said.

The rally had all the trappings of Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign events, including the crowd chanting “lock her up,” about Hillary Clinton, and “build the wall.”

Mr. Trump said they should start chanting “continue building the wall” because it is under construction.

The rally was a payback for Mr. McMaster, who was the first statewide elected official to endorse Mr. Trump in 2016.

“He was with me from the beginning. There was nobody else,” said Mr. Trump.

Mr. McMaster was forced in to a runoff by businessman John Warren, who is running a Trump-style campaign, casting himself as an “outsider” who wants to shake things up. Mr. Warren even borrowed the president’s battle cry by vowing to “drain the swamp in Columbia.”

Mr. McMaster finished first in the June 12 primary, topping Mr. Warren by 53,000 votes, but his challenger is within striking distance for the runoff.

Mr. Warren said last week the president wouldn’t be coming “if it wasn’t close.”

The president went all in for Mr. McMaster, including sending Vice President Mike Pence to campaign with him Saturday.

Given the power of the Mr. Trump’s endorsement and the governor’s longevity and name recognition, South Carolina political insiders were surprised Mr. McMaster didn’t win the primary outright, said Scott Huffmon, a political science professor at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina.

“To secure a victory, [the governor] is pulling out all the stops and calling in his biggest favor from the president,” he said.

Mr. Trump has amassed sizable political capital and the rally for Mr. McMaster showed he’s not shy about spending it.

The president’s approval rating hit a high of 45 percent last week in a Gallup poll, putting him on par with presidents Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan at the same point in their presidencies.

His approval rating among Republicans hit 90 percent in the same poll.

Republican strategist Ford O’Connell said the president’s trip to South Carolina showed he rewards loyalty, but that message cuts both ways.

“If his power is this strong, he might as well use it to keep Republicans in line as well,” said Mr. O’Connell. “Hey, it is a good time to go around and show he can deliver.”

A thunderstorm in Columbia prevented Air Force One from landing for about an hour and delayed the start of the rally.

Mr. Trump said that as the plane circled the airport, he was asked if he wanted to turn back to Washington.

“I said there is no way. We cannot stop,” he said.

Mr. McMaster briefly took the podium to describe Mr. Trump’s arrival, saying the storm clouds parted and Air Force One descended through the clearing.

“And the real force of nature got off the plane,” the governor said.


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