LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
President Trump spent last night in Washington - that's Washington Township, Mich., where his campaign hosted a rally with thousands of supporters. And that was deliberate.
(SOUNDBITE OF RALLY)
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Is this better than that phony Washington White House Correspondents...
TRUMP: Is this more fun?
TRUMP: I could be up there tonight, smiling like I love where they're hitting you shot after shot. These people - they hate your guts.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: It was the second year in a row that Trump skipped the White House Correspondents dinner in Washington, D.C., an event traditionally attended by the president. Ronald Reagan skipped it only once after he was shot. Instead, Trump rallied his base ahead of this year's midterm elections, hitting some familiar themes. And to talk about that is NPR's Sarah McCammon. She was there, and she joins us in the studio this morning. Good morning.
SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: Good morning.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: So this wasn't the White House Correspondents dinner. I'm assuming you weren't wearing a gown. But it was in a town called Washington, which was clearly intentional. What was President Trump's message to his supporters in Michigan?
MCCAMMON: Right, no evening gowns in Washington Township last night. And as you heard, he made a big point of not going to the White House Correspondents dinner, being in Michigan instead. That was, of course, a really important state for him in 2016. And last night, he made a big pitch to those same voters to turn out this year and elect Republicans in the midterms. Trump said voting for a Democrat is voting for open borders, crime and higher taxes. And that message seemed to be resonating with his supporters there, like Bill King (ph), who came to the rally with his wife.
BILL KING: Republican voters are going to have to show up. The left wing is jazzed up for this. They're motivated. We have to get Republicans motivated in order to keep good things happening.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: So the Trump supporters - they're still embracing his message, I guess, on taxes, immigration, the economy. Did we hear anything new from the president, though?
MCCAMMON: Well, interestingly, some of the controversies that have been swirling around in recent days seem to have sort of morphed into campaign talking points. Take Ronny Jackson. He, of course, was Trump's Veterans Affairs secretary nominee who stepped aside last week after multiple service members who'd worked with him came forward with allegations of inappropriate behavior, including mishandling of prescription drugs. Jackson and the White House have denied those allegations. But President Trump doubled down on his recent criticism of Senator Jon Tester. He's the Democrat from Montana who made the allegations public.
(SOUNDBITE OF RALLY)
TRUMP: Well, I know things about Tester that I could say, too.
TRUMP: And if I said them, he'd never be elected again.
MCCAMMON: And then a few minutes later, Trump again brought up the midterms and told supporters to, quote, "vote against guys like Jon Tester that can destroy a man with innuendo."
GARCIA-NAVARRO: This has been a busy several days for President Trump not only on domestic issues but also foreign affairs. He's been talking a lot about that in previous days. Did that come up at all?
MCCAMMON: Yeah. He got a lot of applause from the crowd, even shouts of Nobel - like Nobel Peace Prize - when he talked about the summit between leaders of North and South Korea. And he said, people thought I was going to lead the world into nuclear war. But, quote, "strength is going to keep us out of nuclear war."
GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. That's NPR's Sarah McCammon. Thank you very much.
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