On Saturday, President Trump delivered a fiery speech in western Pennsylvania as part of an eleventh hour bid to boost a Republican candidate in a competitive House race in the heart of Trump country.
As my colleague Jonathan Tamari pointed out, the stakes of the race between Republican Rick Saccone and Democrat Conor Lamb are relatively small: a nine-month unfinished term that won’t change control of the House. But considering Trump won the district by 20 points during the 2016 election, the race could signal a coming political wave by Democrats during the 2018 midterms.
“If I’m a Republican out East and I see a Democrat win in this 18th District — a district that Trump won by close to 20 points — I might be rethinking my plans for the fall,” said Mike Mikus, a Democratic political consultant from Western Pennsylvania
But during his speech at an airport hangar in Moon Township, Allegheny County, Trump veered widely from supporting Saccone, instead focusing on everything from why he wants Oprah Winfrey to enter the race to how he single-handedly saved the 2018 Winter Olympics.
“President Moon of South Korea said without Donald Trump, the Olympics would have been a total failure,” Trump boasted. “That’s true. True.”
In one of the more profane moments of his speech, the president called out NBC News political director and Meet the Press moderator Chuck Todd by name as part of a larger attack against the media for its coverage of his presidency.
“It’s 1999, I’m on Meet the Press, a show now headed by sleepy eyes Chuck Todd,” Trump recalled, an insult he has levied against Todd multiple times. “He’s a sleeping son of a b–. I’ll tell you.”
On Sunday morning, Todd responded to Trump’s comments by talking about how the president’s use of vulgarity creates problems for parents who raise their kids to look up to the commander-in-chief.
“I bring my kids up to respect the office of the presidency and the president,” Todd told NBC4 in Washington. “I don’t allow them to say anything negative, ever, about the president.”
Todd isn’t the only person to object to Trump’s use of objectionable language during his speech. Education Secretary Betsy Devos, appearing on the Today show Monday to discuss the president’s plan to arm teachers in the classroom, admitted the president could set a better example by toning down his sometimes rhetoric.
“I would probably use different language myself,” DeVos said. “I think we all have an opportunity and a responsibility to be examples to our kids… That would include the president as well.”
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) March 12, 2018
DeVos’ criticism comes after other members of Trump’s cabinet were reluctant to criticize the president over his harsh rhetoric. On Sunday’s Meet the Press, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin defended the president’s language, telling Todd there were “a lot of funny moments at that rally.”
“Yes, they were hilarious,” Todd dryly responded.
The special election takes place on Tuesday. Heading into the weekend, public polls showed Lamb with a narrow lead over Saccone.