Trump to rally in battleground Pennsylvania after Democrats unveil impeachment articles


President Donald Trump said he did not put any pressure on Ukraine to investigate Democrats – the issue at the heart of the impeachment probe. The President spoke at a rally in Sunrise, Florida. (Nov. 27)

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump will head to Pennsylvania on Tuesday to make a pitch to one of the most critical states on his 2020 itinerary hours after Democrats formally make their case against him with articles of impeachment. 

Returning to a battleground after months of campaigning this fall for other candidates in Republican strongholds, the president will take the stage in a deeply conservative corner of the Keystone State, where polls show Democrats enjoy a thin advantage overall.

Noting that polls have been largely frozen for weeks as Democrats probed Trump’s interactions with Ukraine, political analysts said Trump is likely to use the latest development to fire up supporters and frame impeachment as overzealous partisanship.

“Trump is going to use this politically far more than the Democrats,” predicted Terry Madonna, director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin & Marshall College, who said the timing of the rally creates an opportunity for him. 

“Trump is going to use it because it’s important to motivate his base,” he said.

Democrats are upping the ante in the impeachment drive at the same time Trump is returning to presidential battleground states after months of rallying in GOP strongholds like Louisiana, Kentucky and Mississippi for candidates in competitive governors races. 

After the Pennsylvania rally, at which he’ll be joined by Vice President Mike Pence, Trump travels to Michigan, his first visit to that swing state in nine months. He rallied in Florida, another critically important state, just before Thanksgiving. 

Those three states – all of which Trump flipped from blue to red in 2016 – will be central to the president’s reelection effort, along with Wisconsin, North Carolina and Arizona.

Democrats plan to announce the articles in a morning news conference, a senior Democratic aide told USA TODAY on Monday. The aide would not detail what the specific articles contain, only that there are “less than five” articles in total. 

The articles are expected to revolve around Trump requesting Ukraine to investigate matters that would help him politically, including the 2016 election and former Vice President Joe Biden, a top 2020 rival. 

Trump will take the stage at 7 p.m. ET in a rally that will be closely watched for how he characterizes the latest move by Democrats. 

‘It’s a disgrace, it’s a hoax’: Trump says of impeachment hearings

The rally will also mark one of the first opportunities for Trump to pounce on a report from the Justice Department’s inspector general that members of both parties are using to frame the origins of the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. The report found the controversial surveillance of a former Trump campaign adviser was riddled with errors but also said the FBI was justified in launching its inquiry into Russia’s interference. 

Speaking at the White House on Monday, Trump said the nearly 500-page report demonstrated an “attempted overthrow” of the government. 

The campaign touted Pennsylvania’s economy and vowed to be organized in the Keystone State “in a way that no campaign has ever been before.”

“Pennsylvania voters know that President Trump’s policies are fueling the strong and still-growing economy and bringing back jobs, including in the manufacturing sector,” campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh told USA TODAY. 

Muhlenberg College/Morning Call poll last month. That poll put Trump underwater with 56% of Pennsylvania voters saying they disapprove of his presidency –  slightly worse than than the RealClearPolitics national average.

The president fared better in a New York Times/Siena College poll taken in October, besting Warren and Sanders and trailing Biden within the margin of error. 

A week later, Trump will hold a rally in Battle Creek, Michigan, a state he won by less than 11,000 votes. His campaign described it as a “Merry Christmas rally,” though it could come just as House Democrats are voting to impeach him and as Congress scrambles to avoid a government shutdown by week’s end.

And just before heading to his Mar-a-Lago resort for Thanksgiving, Trump held a 90-minute rally in Sunrise, about 50 miles southwest of Palm Beach.   

By comparison, Trump spent much of the fall campaigning in off-cycle elections in states where he has significant support. Trump’s past six rallies – three in Louisiana and one each in Kentucky, Mississippi and Texas – were in states he won with wide margins.

Those efforts had mixed results. Gov. John Bel Edwards, the Democratic incumbent in Louisiana, held on to his seat in an election last month despite an aggressive challenge from Republican Eddie Rispone. Weeks earlier, in Kentucky, Democrat Andy Beshear upset Republican Gov. Matt Bevin. Both races have been touted by Democrats as a sign that their party is more energized heading into the 2020 presidential election. 

“The Louisiana governor’s race was the demarcation point,” said GOP consultant John Brabender, noting Trump held three rallies there in an unsuccessful effort to unseat the Democratic incumbent this fall. “They are now fully committed to the 2020 election.”

Brabender, a longtime political guru to former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, speculated that the Trump campaign will likely take a different approach and message to the Philadelphia suburbs, which have become increasingly more blue with time.

“You can’t ignore the southeast, but a Trump rally is not necessarily the ideal mechanism for doing that,” Brabender said. 

Trump also campaigned last fall in Mississippi, a GOP stronghold where Republican Tate Reeves beat Democrat Jim Hood for governor on Nov. 5. 

Trump rallied in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin once each this year. He held rallies in Florida three times, including one last last month. He also held rallies in several Clinton-won states that Republicans hope will be winnable in 2020, including Minnesota, New Mexico and New Hampshire. 

“It’s seemingly impossible for him to win reelection if he loses three of the four,” Madonna said. “He needs these white, working class voters in these old mining and mill towns in my state and Michigan and Wisconsin, in particular.”

Contributing: Christal Hayes 

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