WASHINGTON (AP) — The final weekend of campaigning in the midterms might come down to this: Donald Trump versus Barack Obama.
The Republican president and his Democratic predecessor are both lending their considerable political clout to key Senate and gubernatorial battlegrounds in Indiana, Florida and Georgia this weekend, aiming to motivate voters before Tuesday’s election.
Far from buddies, Trump has frequently blasted Obama’s economic stewardship and handling of trade agreements, while the former president has warned that the “character of our country is on the ballot.”
Friday’s campaigning featured a combination of Trump events in Huntington, West Virginia, and Indianapolis, while Obama was rallying Democrats in Miami and Atlanta.
Trump covets the Senate seats held by Democrats Joe Donnelly of Indiana and Joe Manchin of West Virginia, two states that the president won handily in 2016. Democrats, meanwhile, could make history by electing black governors in Florida and Georgia, and are turning to the nation’s first black president to help make their case.
During the weekend, Trump will head to Montana and Florida on Saturday and Georgia and Tennessee on Sunday. Obama will return to the trail on Sunday, headlining rallies for Donnelly in Gary, Indiana, and in his hometown of Chicago for J.B. Pritzker, who is running for Illinois governor.
A look at campaign activities on Friday:
Trump received the type of jobs report that any president would envy heading into the final days before the midterm elections. But will he use it to his advantage?
The October economic data released Friday packed a wallop, finding that U.S. employers added 250,000 jobs during the past month and unemployment remained at a five-decade low of 3.7 percent. More people entered the labor force and wages made their biggest gains since 2009.
Yet it landed at the end of a week in which the president has made immigration and border security the paramount issue for Republicans in the midterms, warning without offering evidence that a caravan of immigrants is preparing an “invasion” of the U.S. southern border.
Trump called the economic numbers “incredible” on Twitter, but it raised the question of whether the president will pivot back to the economy — an approach favored by embattled House Republicans — or keep up his drumbeat on immigration before the election.
In Miami, Obama said democracy can’t work when words stop having meaning, encouraging a crowd of about 3,000 to vote for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum and Sen. Bill Nelson.
Obama said voters shouldn’t be bamboozled by misinformation while Republicans allow polluters to poison the environment, give tax cuts to billionaires and take health care away from millions.
During the former president’s speech, a protester shouted that Obama should “denounce ANTIFA” — the protesters who square off against neo-Nazis. Obama responded by citing anger among Trump supporters despite their candidate’s win and asked, “Why are they so mad?”
That protester and two others were escorted from the venue.
Trump was expected to campaign in Indiana with Hall of Fame basketball coach Bob Knight, who coached the Indiana University Hoosiers. Knight embraced Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, often appearing with the future president at rallies.
Trump teased Knight’s appearance in a tweet, saying: “Don’t tell anyone (big secret), but I will be bringing Coach Bobby Knight to Indiana. He’s been a supporter right from the beginning of the Greatest Political Movement in American History!”
Trump, Knight and Vice President Mike Pence, a former Indiana governor, will be rallying supporters behind Republican Mike Braun, who is running against Donnelly in a closely watched Senate contest.
In West Virginia, Trump was helping Republican state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, who is in a tight contest against Manchin.
A group of high-powered Latinas are campaigning in Florida this weekend in two largely Latino neighborhoods to drive turnout in the midterm elections.
Actresses America Ferrera, Eva Longoria, Gina Rodriguez, Rosario Dawson and Zoe Saldana will appear at rallies in Kissimmee and Miami on Sunday.
Also attending the Kissimmee rally will be the wife of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum and two U.S. representatives of Puerto Rican background — Darren Soto of Florida and Nydia Velazquez of New York. Kissimmee is home to many transplants from Puerto Rico.