BANGOR, Maine — Amid a flood of sexual misconduct allegations threatening his campaign, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump used a Saturday afternoon rally in Bangor to blast a “rigged system” of government and media pushing “lies” that he says are designed to elect Democrat Hillary Clinton.
The rally at the Cross Insurance Center was Trump’s fourth visit to Maine since March as he looks to pick up one of Maine’s four Electoral College votes by winning the rural, conservative and working-class 2nd Congressional District.
Trump’s half-hour speech was dominated by national context: He has dropped in the polls since the release of a 2005 tape in which he said “when you’re a star,” you can “do anything” to women. That prompted a flood of sexual misconduct allegations over the past week that Trump has vehemently denied.
On Friday, he blamed the allegations on a media conspiracy involving the Clinton campaign and Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim, a shareholder of the New York Times, which earlier this week published two women’s reports that Trump inappropriately touched them. Both Slim and the newspaper have denied Trump’s unverified claims.
“They take these lies and they put them on the front pages,” Trump said. “This is a rigged system, folks. But we’re not going to let them. We’re not going to let them.”
The Republican nominee looked like the prohibitive favorite to win the 2nd District in September, when he held a double-digit polling lead as Clinton commanded a larger one in the liberal 1st Congressional District. But his Maine standing is uncertain now amid a wider drop in the polls.
There has only been one public poll in Maine in October. A survey from the progressive Maine People’s Resource Center showed Clinton ahead of Trump by 8 percentage points statewide and virtually tied with him in the 2nd District. The same group had Trump and Clinton tied statewide and Trump up by 11 points in the 2nd District in September.
The October poll in Maine was taken before the tape’s release and misconduct allegations against Trump, so their impact on his chances here hasn’t been measured.
Trump’s speech was largely nationally focused. U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama, and former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani introduced him, the first time he’s used national surrogates in Maine.
He spoke in his familiar, general terms about sweeping policy goals, including his proposed border wall with Mexico, a hard line on Muslim immigration and opposition to free trade agreements. He said Clinton “should have been prosecuted and gone to jail” for her email practices as U.S. secretary of state.
After hitting those themes, Trump turned his focus to Maine. In a nod to locals, he blasted President Barack Obama’s creation of the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument near Baxter State Park, saying it “undermines the people that live and work in Maine.”
Supporters in Bangor weren’t moved by the allegations against Trump, including Teresa Swedberg, 20, of Bangor, who attended the rally with her baby who wore a badge reading “adorable deplorable” — a reference to Clinton’s statement last month that many Trump supporters are a “ basket of deplorables.”
“He didn’t do anything,” Swedberg said. “He’s a guy.”
“All guys say that stuff, think that stuff,” said Jasmin Belanger, 19, of Old Town, who was with Swedberg. “It’s different if you do it.”
Swedberg singled out Trump’s anti-abortion, pro-gun and immigration stances as reasons that she supports him. She said while “the media backs Killary,” Trump will likely win because he’s motivating people who have been disengaged in politics and “he gives us hope.”
Raymond Dean, a retiree from Northport, said what Trump said on the 2005 tape was “a terrible thing” but “my wife wasn’t too upset about it.” But he said “they’re words,” that “men sometimes talk gutter talk” and said Trump’s accusers aren’t being truthful.
He’s still a strong Trump supporter, and his reason for that is simple.
“He’s a man,” Dean said. “He’s going to straighten this country out, there’s no doubt about it.”
The rally drew protests, including from the Maine Democratic Party, which held a media event an hour before Trump spoke. Nearby, about 30 protesters lined Main Street near Bass Park Boulevard.
One protester, 33-year-old Nathalie Arruda of Trenton, said she was there “to make a stand that I think Mr. Trump is unfit to be a presidential candidate.”
“I don’t expect people to change their minds because I am here,” she said, “but I am here anyway.”
BDN writer Nick Sambides Jr. contributed to this report.