By Peter Baker
New York Times News Service
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump embarks Monday afternoon on a final three-state election swing that will close out an us-against-them midterm campaign built on dark themes of fear, anger, division, nationalism and racial animosity.
The president’s thundering warnings about “left-wing mobs” and a migrant “invasion” have inflamed the passions of a country, energizing conservatives he hopes to mobilize to hang onto control of Congress while exasperating opponents who accuse him of fearmongering and demagoguery.
Trump has generated overflow crowds of red-hatted supporters wherever he has gone in these final days, drawing energy from their adulation and pumping them up to head to the polls Tuesday to salvage Republican majorities in the House and Senate. Underscoring his emphasis on his base, Trump invited Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh, two conservative media icons, to join him Monday when he travels to Ohio, Indiana and Missouri.
Trump declared that the election would be a referendum on him and his campaign strategy itself became one of the biggest issues. He has eagerly taken credit for the healthy economy, even exaggerating its merits, but rather than make that the centerpiece of his campaign in hopes of appealing to independents and moderates, he chose to wage the fall battle on the ground of immigration.
Describing himself as a “nationalist,” he vilified immigrants, both those in the country legally and illegally, playing to tribal rifts in American society in a way that went beyond what most presidents have done during competitive midterm elections in the modern era. His supporters cheered him on, embracing a leader they said was finally taking on the cosseted elites and guarding the country against outsiders. But the divisions he encouraged will bedevil the country beyond Election Day.
For his last campaign swing of this cycle, Trump was heading first to Cleveland, where an intense governor’s race will decide which party controls state government in a place Trump must win if he hopes to secure a second term in two years.
From there, he planned to fly to Fort Wayne, Indiana, where Republicans have hopes of knocking off Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly. And he was to end his day with a late-night rally in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, on behalf of Republican Josh Hawley’s efforts to defeat Sen. Claire McCaskill.