President Donald Trump began a late-campaign tour of eight states on Wednesday by stoking Florida Republicans over immigration, an emotional issue that stirs voters of both parties.
“We’re getting prepared for the caravan, folks, you don’t have to worry about that,” Trump told supporters at a rally near Fort Myers, Florida, adding that “a vote for Democrats is a vote to liquidate America’s borders.”
Democrats, meanwhile, said Trump’s targeting of migrants will push their voters to the polls, helping their party win control of the U.S. House and U.S. Senate.
For days, Trump has blasted a “caravan” of migrants from Central America that is hundreds of miles from the U.S. border; threatened to send up to 15,000 troops to guard that border; and talked about an executive order to stop birthright citizenship, despite legal scholars who say he can’t.
Claiming it costs the United States “billions of dollars,” Trump denounced birthright citizenship as a “crazy policy.” It is, however, a constitutional right, and legal scholars say the 14th Amendment is clear in conferring citizenship on any person born in the United States, even if their parents are undocumented.
Immigration is important to Trump’s base of most ardent supporters, political analysts said, and is likely to juice Republican turnout for the Nov. 6 elections. It may also motivate Democratic voters, including fast-growing Hispanic communities in closely contested congressional districts.
“It might help in the short-term in red (Republican) states, but I think it damages Republicans in swing areas and among younger voters,” said William Kristol, editor-at-large of The Weekly Standard magazine and a conservative critic of Trump.
Democratic strategist Lis Smith called Trump’s approach “a base-only strategy that threatens to backfire on Republicans in this election and beyond. The GOP is already having problems with suburban voters, young voters, college-educated voters, and Latino voters – all of whom reject anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies.”