HOUSTON - President Donald Trump projected midterm optimism in Texas on Monday, saying the "blue wave is being dissipated a little."
Trump spoke before a massive crowd in Houston on behalf of his former foe Sen. Ted Cruz, who faces a strong challenge from Democratic Rep. Beto O'Rourke. When the two competed in the 2016 Republican presidential primary, Trump would frequently deride his rival as "Lyin' Ted" but said in Texas that their relationship had come a long way.
"Nobody has helped me more with your tax cut, with your regulation," Trump said of Cruz. "He defended your jobs, he defended your borders, and we are defending that border, by the way."
Trump also attacked O'Rourke, dubbing him a "stone--cold phony."
With the midterms drawing near, Trump continued to escalate his rhetoric on immigration, targeting a migrant caravan heading to the U.S. southern border. Trump called the caravan an "assault on our country" and suggested, without citing evidence, that "Democrats had something to do with it."
"We need a wall built fast," Trump said.
Immigration politics have become a central part of Trump's closing message as he seeks to energize Republican voters in the midterm elections. Trump has seized on the caravan of Central Americans as evidence that his immigration prescriptions are needed. Earlier Monday, he said the U.S. will begin "cutting off, or substantially reducing" aid to three Central American nations because of the caravan.
The president's focus on immigration politics comes as he seeks to counter Democratic enthusiasm in November. But the approach offers both risks and rewards. He could energize Democratic foes as well as the Republicans he wants to rouse to the polls.
Monday's event bore all the trappings of a Trump rally. An enthusiastic crowd packed into Houston's Toyota Center, wearing red Make America Great Again hats and waving signs, including one with the president's new catchphrase, "Jobs vs. Mobs." Some did the wave as they waited for the event to start; others shouted "Trump, Trump, Trump!" and "Build the wall!"
Speaking before Trump took the stage, Cruz made clear that their conflict was behind them and that the two were working together. His biggest applause came when he predicted that "in 2020, Donald Trump will be overwhelming re--elected."
A series of Texas elected officials were among the warmup speakers, as well as Trump's daughter--in--law Lara Trump and son Eric Trump, who told the audience that "we are driving the Democrats absolutely nuts."
Trump gleefully used his latest attack line against Democrats, saying, "Democrats produce mobs, Republicans produce jobs." He declared Democrats would be a "big risk to the American family," and went after some of his favorite targets, including Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Rep. Maxine Waters, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
The president stressed tax cuts, the strong economy and hurricane response in the state. He repeated his pledge for a new middle--income tax cut of about 10 percent, though he offered few details on the plan. Trump said they would be "putting it in" next week, though Congress is not in session.
Trump also criticized so--called globalists, declaring, "You know what I am? I'm a nationalist."
Trump's Texas stop is part of a campaign blitz that is expected to last until Election Day.
Although political relationships tend to be fluid, Trump's appearance for Cruz is notable, given that the two were bitter enemies during the 2016 primaries. After Trump insulted Cruz's wife and father, and Cruz refused to endorse Trump at the Republican convention, it was far from clear that the two would ever put it all behind them.
But they started rebuilding in the closing days of the campaign and have worked together since Trump took the White House.
The White House views Cruz as a loyal vote for his agenda. Trump promised he would come to Texas after the Senate race grew closer than expected, with O'Rourke out--fundraising Cruz and drawing large and enthusiastic crowds around the state. Cruz, who is leading O'Rourke in the polls, said over the summer that he would welcome Trump's support, though he has brushed off any suggestion he'd need Trump to win.
During the 2016 Republican primary, Trump assailed Cruz as a liar and "dishonest politician," insulted his wife's appearance and promoted unsubstantiated claims that Cruz's father had links to President John F. Kennedy's assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald.
Trump on Monday did not voice any second thoughts about labeling Cruz the son of a presidential killer, telling reporters, "I don't regret anything."
Cruz gave back as good as he got. He savaged Trump as a "pathological liar," an "amoral bully" and a "sniveling coward." After Cruz lost the primary, he gave a speech at the Republican National Convention in which he did not endorse Trump and instead called on Republicans to "vote your conscience," drawing boos from the crowd. But he announced his support about a month before Election Day -- and won points in Trump's camp for not withdrawing after the "Access Hollywood" tape was released in which Trump bragged about groping women.
Candidate Beto O'Rourke was also in Houston visiting polls across Harris County to kick off early voting.
HPD mobility plans/ street closures for Trump's visit
HPD Chief Art Acevedo also said the department was fully mobilized Monday and had many officers undercover, on the ground and in the air. Acevedo said federal agents also supported the department.
"We expect to have a peaceful event. We believe in the First Amendment, but will not tolerate unlawful or criminal behavior," he said.
Acevedo said closures around the Toyota Center and downtown began at 8:30 p.m. Sunday and ended at 10:30 p.m. Monday.
These streets include the following:
• Polk Street between Austin and Chartres streets
• Clay Street between Austin and Hamilton streets
• Bell Street between Austin and Chenevert streets
• La Branch Street between Dallas and Leeland streets
• Crawford Street between Dallas and Polk streets
• Jackson Street between Polk and Leeland streets
People who work downtown were advised to plan ahead and leave early to avoid heavy traffic.
A list of detour routes have been provided:
- Chartres Street northbound
- Capitol Street westbound
- Caroline Street southbound
- Leeland Street eastbound
All ride-share vehicles and drop-offs will be at Caroline and Leeland streets.
Copyright 2018 by KPRC Click2Houston. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.