Trump Attacks ‘Birthright Citizenship’ in Bid to Keep Senate

(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump doubled down on his vow to deny U.S. citizenship to children born of unauthorized immigrants as he kicked off an eleventh-hour effort to save Republican control of the Senate.

"Under this policy," Trump asserted at a rally in Estero, Florida, on Wednesday night, "anyone who breaks into our country and has a child, the very next moment that child would be made a citizen for life. Great. This policy has even created an entire industry of birth tourism. Big business, where pregnant mothers travel to America to make their children instant American citizens."

The children "are made instantly eligible for every benefit of American citizenship at a cost of billions a year," Trump added, without citing evidence.

Estero was the first stop of a six-day tour that will see Trump hold 11 rallies in eight states before Tuesday’s midterm elections, in which Democrats are hoping to win control of at least one chamber of Congress. Florida is holding both Senate and gubernatorial races regarded as critical by the White House.

He’ll visit the state again on Saturday.

The president has escalated the intensity of his rhetoric toward both immigrants and Democrats as he seeks to turn out his base supporters to vote for his congressional allies. He’s combined the attacks with actions his opponents have criticized as outlandish stunts.

"There’s a lot of feelings about the horrors of the illegal immigration problem where people think they’re just going to come into our country and take over our country," Trump said in an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network, during which he predicted his party will hold the Senate.

"It’s just not going to happen. We’re not going to let that happen,” Trump said.

Already this week, he ordered the military to fortify the U.S. border with Mexico against a so-called caravan of Central American migrants still hundreds of miles away, and he said that he would seek to deny citizenship to children born to unauthorized immigrants with a presidential order.

He renewed his warnings about the migrants in Estero and accused Democrats of wanting "to invite caravan after caravan into our country."

The targets of Trump’s verbal attacks expanded earlier on Wednesday to include House Speaker Paul Ryan, a fellow Republican who has raised millions of dollars for the party’s candidates, but who criticized Trump’s proposal to end “birthright citizenship.”

Trump earlier posted a video ad on Twitter showing an undocumented immigrant who killed two police officers in California smirking and boasting in court as the words "Democrats let him into our country" and "let him stay" flash across the screen. Senator Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican, quoted on Twitter by Jake Tapper of CNN, called the video "a new low in campaigning."

At the White House, the expectation is that the House is lost. Trump’s travel in the last days of the campaign will focus on Senate and gubernatorial races where it’s thought his presence might swing votes toward Republican candidates. In addition to Florida, he’ll visit Missouri and Indiana twice, West Virginia, Montana, Georgia, Tennessee and Ohio.

In Florida, Governor Rick Scott is challenging incumbent Senator Bill Nelson, a Democrat, while a Trump favorite, Representative Ron DeSantis, is challenging Democrat Andrew Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee, to succeed Scott.

A Gillum win would give Democrats far more power when Florida’s congressional districts are redrawn following the 2020 Census. He’s leading DeSantis by about three percentage points, according to an average of recent polls compiled by RealClearPolitics.

Trump called both Scott and DeSantis to the podium on Wednesday night and he attacked their opponents.

White House advisers have grown particularly nervous recently about the Senate races in Florida, Missouri and Arizona, all states that they were confident Republicans would win a month ago. The president’s advisers were at one point hopeful that outrage amid the Republican electorate over Democrats’ treatment of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination would translate to increased turnout for the election, but that enthusiasm has recently dissipated, pollsters say.

Worse, Trump’s popularity took a tumble this week after mail bombs were sent to prominent Democrats last week and the massacre at a Pittsburgh synagogue on Saturday. Trump responded to the events by rejecting criticism that his rhetoric encouraged the violence and blaming the media for creating a hostile political climate.

Trump’s job approval rating fell 4 percentage points in the week that ended Oct. 28, with 40 percent of Americans approving of Trump’s performance as commander in chief, according to Gallup. It was an unusually steep decline for the poll, which is based on a survey of 1,500 U.S. adults conducted Monday through Sunday each week.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.