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SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Two days before President Donald Trump rallies in Texas, his eldest son on Tuesday looked to help him hang onto the reliably Republican state, playing to the conservative base by delivering red meat cultural attacks and lacing into several of his father's possible Democratic foes.
Donald Trump Jr., the swaggering embodiment of the Make America Great Again agenda, was the main event at a campaign event in San Antonio ahead of the president's rally in Dallas on Thursday. Trump Jr. did not shy away from taking on the primary threat to his father's presidency: the impeachment inquiry prompted by the elder Trump's push for Ukraine to investigate Democratic Joe Biden and his son Hunter.
"About the only job (Hunter Biden) could get would be a no-show job at a corrupt Ukrainian oil company because no one would else would hire this clown," said Trump Jr., showing no self-awareness that he, too, has at least in part been successful because of a famous father.
Channeling his father, Trump Jr. complained bitterly about what he deemed was unfair media coverage, declaring: "For 50 years, conservatives have turned the other cheek. I'm done turning the other cheek, guys!"
The one-two punch in Texas this week displays a degree of wariness, drenched in bluster, from the Trump campaign about the Lone Star State. A Republican candidate can't win the White House without Texas' 38 electoral college votes. Trump carried the state by 9 percentage points in 2016, but Democrats have pointed to demographic trends — including increases in college-educated voters, suburban voters and Hispanic voters — as evidence that the second most populous state in the nation could soon be in play. Republican Sen. Ted Cruz won reelection last year by just over 2 points.
In the moments before Trump Jr. launched into his stump speech, his father's campaign manager, Brad Parscale, took a more data-driven approach. Parscale said his team had collected information from the several hundred people packed into a room in San Antonio's convention center, and he urged them to recruit neighbors as volunteers as the operation looks to expand exponentially from its shoestring first run.
"2016 was an airplane being built in the sky and we built the wheels on at just the right time," said Parscale. "This time we are building a fleet."
The Trump campaign has proven to be a fundraising juggernaut, and Parscale touted other lofty statistical goals, including growing the volunteer pool from 600,000 in 2016 to 2 million this time.
As an example of the expanded operation, the campaign has begun having preview events ahead of Trump's rallies. On the eve of Trump's raucous rally in Minneapolis last week, his daughter in-law Lara Trump and second lady Karen Pence held a much quieter "Women for Trump" meeting in St. Paul.
More than 200 women listened to the campaign's pitch, as Pence and Lara Trump sat in armchairs on a small stage. Campaign spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany asked them questions, talk-show style.
Asked what young women should know about the president, Karen Pence said the president "cares about your pocketbook." She continued: "This is a president who cares. When I see the way he engages with women it means a lot to me."
The Texas preview rally was far more raucous in tone, at times resembling an R-rated political roast.
Trump Jr., whose own eventual political aspirations are the subject of growing rumors, has embraced his role as a popular emissary for his father, crisscrossing the country, showcasing his new relationship with former Fox News host Kim Guilfoyle and relishing button-pushing rally appearance and tweets. He riffed on political subjects, poking fun at Biden's recent gaffes and mocking Sen. Elizabeth Warren's claim of Native American heritage. He also took on cultural targets, laughing at Jussie Smollett, the actor who falsely said he was attacked by Trump supporters, and attacking hyper-political correctness, saying, "The amount of new genders multiply by 54 every day and I can't keep track anymore."
Guilfoyle was also greeted as a rock star and acted like a bawdy opening act for her boyfriend, saying she has known the president and his eldest son for 14 years — but stressing, "I know Donald Trump Jr. a little bit better, let's just get out of the way right now."
Additional reporting by Kathleen Hennessey in St. Paul, Minnesota.
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