LIMA, Ohio — President Trump, in a speech largely crediting himself for the strong economy, told plant workers here Wednesday that his future 2020 Democratic opponent will struggle in debates because he will just rattle off unemployment statistics.
‘‘So it’s going to be really easy on the debate stage when they hit me with nonsense and I say, ‘Really, but African-American employment, the best it has ever been. Hispanic, Asian, women, everybody, it’s all the best it has ever been.’ How do you top that in a debate? What are they going to say? Well, it could be better?’’ Trump said.
That was as close as he got to talking politics. Trump then spent the better part of his 50-minute speech focused on economic issues, sticking to the kind of positive message that Republicans were desperate for him to lean on during the 2018 midterm elections.
Trump’s visit to the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center in Lima, which is operated by General Dynamics, was an official White House event and not one of his more freewheeling ‘‘Make America Great Again’’ rallies. Still, Trump did spend five minutes at the start of his speech disparaging the late Senator John McCain and later said former president Obama and ‘‘Crooked Hillary’’ could not have achieved what he has.
The trip here marks his 10th visit to Ohio since becoming president. A senior administration official said in a conference call with reporters Tuesday night that the president’s repeat trips to the state are a sign of his priorities.
Trump won Ohio in the 2016 presidential election, and the swing state is expected to be critical to his keeping his job in 2020.
The Lima plant produces Abrams tanks, the Army’s main battle tank. The Trump administration steered funding to the plant in 2017, so the president asserted several times in his speech on Wednesday that the plant would be closed without him.
‘‘You better love me. I kept this place open, that I can tell you. They said, ‘We’re closing it.’ And I said, ‘No, we’re not.’ And now, you’re doing record business,’’ Trump said when he came onstage to chants of ‘‘USA, USA.’’
States may make candidate tax form release mandatory
WASHINGTON — In refusing to release his tax returns, President Trump bucked decades of tradition and set off a Democrat hunt to obtain them. Now several state houses are looking at making their release a condition of the 2020 presidential election: Show us your tax returns, or you can’t be on the ballot.
Eighteen states have considered legislation this year that would require presidential and vice presidential candidates to post their tax returns to appear on the ballot during a primary or general election, according to data from the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Proponents of the bills, such as the one passed by the Washington state Senate this week, say they are aimed at increasing transparency and returning to the ‘‘norm’’ of candidates releasing their financial records. But Democratic lawmakers behind the some of the legislation have admitted they are also very much about Trump, which raises legal and political questions about how far states can — or should — go in regulating who appears on their ballot, especially in a hyper partisan climate.
Trump has long insisted that he won’t release his returns because they are under audit, though that would not preclude him from doing so. The documents have become something of a liberal white whale, and Democrats at the federal level have been pursuing laws or legal maneuvers aimed at obtaining them.
In addition to Washington, several other states, including California, Hawaii, and New Jersey are considering similar bills. Many, though not all, of the legislatures considering the bills are controlled by Democrats, but even in Republican-controlled states, Democrats have put forth such legislation. Measures failed earlier this year in Mississippi, New Mexico, and New Hampshire.
GOP senator rebukes Trump for McCain disparagement
WASHINGTON — It was all too much for Senator Johnny Isakson to take.
After an escalation of bitter words from the president on the late Senator John McCain this week, Isakson, a Republican from Georgia, took to the airwaves in a rare moment for his party: a stinging rebuke of Trump.
‘‘It’s deplorable what he said,’’ Isakson said Wednesday on Georgia Public Broadcasting, as he decried the public teardown of McCain, a former Navy pilot who spent years in brutal captivity in Vietnam. ‘‘There aren’t Democratic casualties or Republican casualties on the battlefield,’’ he said.
His comments followed an interview with the Bulwark, a conservative news website.
‘‘I just want to lay it on the line, that the country deserves better, the McCain family deserves better. I don’t care if he’s president of United States, owns all the real estate in New York, or is building the greatest immigration system in the world,’’ Isakson told the site.
‘‘Nothing is more important than the integrity of the country and those who fought and risked their lives for all of us.’’
Trump kept up his denunciations of McCain after Isakson’s rebuke.
During a White House event at a manufacturing facility in Lima, Ohio, Trump said of McCain, ‘‘I endorsed him at his request, and I gave him the kind of funeral he wanted, which as president I had to approve.’’
‘‘I don’t care about this,’’ Trump continued. ‘‘I didn’t get a thank-you. That’s OK. We sent him on the way. But I wasn’t a fan of John McCain.’’
Presidents don’t approve the funerals of members of Congress. To lie in state, one needs the approval of Congress. The funeral would have been approved by the Washington National Cathedral. Trump did approve the military transportation of McCain’s remains from Arizona to Washington, military pallbearers, a band, and military horses.
Trump’s attacks have also appeared to unleash trolls targeting the McCain family. Soon after the president’s Oval Office remarks, Cindy McCain posted a profanity-laced message she received on Facebook.
A woman called John McCain ‘‘traitorous’’ and celebrated his death.
‘‘I want to make sure all of you could see how kind and loving a stranger can be,’’ Cindy McCain wrote on Twitter, referring to the woman.
Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, rallied to McCain’s defense Wednesday.
‘‘I can’t understand why the president would, once again, disparage a man as exemplary as my friend John McCain: heroic, courageous, patriotic, honorable, self-effacing, self-sacrificing, empathetic, and driven by duty to family, country, and God,’’ Romney wrote on Twitter.