WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP, Mich. — President Trump took aim at familiar political targets and added a few fresh ones during a campaign-style rally Saturday night in an Upper Midwest state that gave him a surprising victory in the 2016 election.
Trump has been urging voters to support Republicans for Congress as a way of advancing his agenda.
In his rally in Washington Township, he repeatedly pointed to Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan as one of the Democrats who needed to be voted out.
After saying Stabenow was standing in the way of protecting US borders and had voted against tax cuts, Trump said: ‘‘And you people just keep putting her back again and again and again. It’s your fault.’’
Earlier Saturday, Trump tweeted criticism of Democratic Senator Jon Tester of Montana over his role in the failed nomination of White House doctor Ronny Jackson to run the Department of Veterans Affairs, calling for Tester to resign or at least not be reelected this fall.
In his rally remarks, Trump railed against the allegations Tester aired against Jackson and suggested that he could take a similar tack against the senator.
‘‘I know things about Tester that I could say, too. And if I said ’em, he’d never be elected again,’’ Trump said without elaborating.
As he has at similar events, Trump promoted top agenda items that energize grass-roots conservatives — appointing conservative judges, building a wall on the US-Mexico border, ending ‘‘sanctuary cities,’’ and protecting tax cuts approved by the Republican-led Congress.
He also took credit for the warming relations between North and South Korea, telling his audience ‘‘we’ll see how it goes.’’
Trump chose a friendly venue for his rally, which not coincidentally came the same night as the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner.
He skipped the dinner last year, too, and attended a rally in which he took time to attack the news media and assure his audience — as he did in Washington Township, about 40 miles north of Detroit — that he’d rather be with them.
Ahead of the rally, Trump said in a fund-raising pitch that he had come up with something better than being stuck in a room ‘‘with a bunch of fake news liberals who hate me.’’ He said he would rather spend the evening ‘‘with my favorite deplorables.’’
During the 2016 campaign, Clinton drew laughs when she told supporters at a private fundraiser that half of Trump supporters could be lumped into a ‘‘basket of deplorables’’ — denouncing them as ‘‘racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic, you name it.’’
Clinton later did a partial rollback, said she had been ‘‘grossly generalistic’’ and regretted saying the label fit ‘‘half’’ of Trump’s supporters. But she didn’t back down from the general sentiment.
Trump soon had the video running in his campaign ads, and his supporters wore the ‘‘deplorable’’ label as a badge of honor.
Macomb County, the site of Trump’s rally, is among the predominantly white counties known as a base for ‘‘Reagan Democrats’’ — blue-collar voters who abandoned the Democratic Party for Ronald Reagan, but who can be intriguingly movable.
Democrat Barack Obama won the county twice in his White House runs, then Trump carried it by more than 11 percentage points.
Separately, Trump is privately rejecting the growing consensus among Republican leaders that they may lose the House and possibly the Senate in November, leaving party officials worried that he does not grasp the gravity of the threat they face in the midterm elections.
Congressional and party leaders and even some Trump aides are concerned that the president’s boundless self-
assurance about politics will cause him to ignore or undermine their midterm strategy.
In battleground states like Arizona, Florida, and Nevada, Trump’s proclivity to be a loose cannon could endanger the Republican incumbents and challengers who are already facing ferocious Democratic headwinds.
Republicans in Washington and Trump aides have largely given up assuming the president will ever stick to a teleprompter, but they have joined to impress upon him just how bruising this November could be for Republicans — and how high the stakes are for Trump personally.
A Democratic-controlled Congress could pursue aggressive investigations and even impeachment.
Over dinner with the president and other Republican congressional leaders this month, Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, the majority leader, phrased his advice in the form of a reminder: Trump should never forget his central role in the 2018 campaign, McConnell said.
The senator explained that Republicans’ prospects are linked to what Trump says and does, and underscored that their one-seat advantage in the Senate was in jeopardy.
If McConnell’s warning was not clear enough, Marc Short, the White House’s legislative liaison, used the dinner to offer an even starker assessment. The GOP’s House majority is all but doomed, he said.
But Trump was not moved. “That’s not going to happen,” he said at different points during the evening, shrugging off the grim prognoses, according to multiple officials briefed on the conversation.
The disconnect between the president — a political novice whose confidence in his instincts was grandly rewarded in 2016 — and more traditional party leaders demonstrates the depth of the Republicans’ challenges in what is likely to be a punishing campaign year.