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Trump hails arrival of troops at border while pumping up Florida voters

President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at Pensacola International Airport on Nov. 3, 2018, in Pensacola, Florida. Copyright Butch Dill AP
Copyright Butch Dill AP
By Adam Edelman with NBC News Politics
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Trump spoke at a campaign rally in Pensacola on behalf of GOP gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis and GOP Senate candidate Rick Scott.


President Donald Trump used a raucous Florida rally Saturday night to rail against Democrats on immigration and tout his own moves on the issue, including sending troops to the southern border.

"Did you watch tonight? I sent United States military to our border. And I looked at those young, great people and I looked at those generals giving the orders, and I looked at the way they worked and I watched that barbed wire being put down. Barbed wire," Trump told a crowd in Pensacola, where he was revving up voters ahead of Tuesday's midterm elections.

The remarks referenced the arrival of the first wave of the up to 15,000 troops Trump said he has dispatched to help secure the southern border. The troops began putting up chain-link fencing topped with barbed wire earlier in the day Saturday.

Trump, who was visiting the Sunshine State to campaign for GOP gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis and GOP Senate candidate Rick Scott, hammered away at Democrats on illegal immigration, a favorite topic and one he's doubled down on in the days before Tuesday's elections. DeSantis and Scott both attended and spoke at the rally, as well.

Trump said it was "a little suspicious how those caravans are starting," referring to the three caravans of Central American migrants and refugees slowly heading toward the U.S. border. The president added that maybe it's a good thing "they did it" as it might have energized the Republican base, seeming to blame Democrats, without any evidence, for the caravan's formation.

Trump, who spoke for more than an hour, also dedicated much of his speech to bashing the opponents of DeSantis and Scott — Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, the Democratic gubernatorial nominee, and incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.

"Andrew Gillum is not equipped to be your governor. He's just not equipped. It's not for him," Trump said. "He knows it. He won't say it but he knows it. We've got to keep this state great."

Earlier, he ripped Nelson for "never" reaching out to him for help for the state.

"I never see him. The only one I ever see is Crying Chuck," Trump said, using his preferred nickname for Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

"I've never had a call from Sen. Bill Nelson saying could you help me," Trump said. "I don't see Bill Nelson for five-and-a-half years and around election time he's on television every night. But for five-and-a-half years you don't see him."

The rally — which also featured an on-stage cameo from legendary former Florida State University Coach Bobby Bowden, who is now 88 — was the second the president hosted Saturday. Trump is criss-crossing the U.S. in the final days ahead of the midterms to rally on behalf of Republican candidates.

Earlier Saturday, he headlined a rally in Montana, and on Sunday he will headline ones in Georgia and Tennessee.

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