By Chris Cillizza | CNN Editor-at-large
President Donald Trump is closing the 2018 campaign in a familiar key: Making barely-veiled racial attacks in hopes of driving a portion of his base to vote.
Three instances from the weekend stand out:
1. In Indianapolis over the weekend, Trump, describing his presidential predecessor, said: “Barack,” then paused, then drew the letter “H” (for Obama’s middle name “Hussein”) in the air. Trump has talked about Obama lots and lots of times over the past two years, but it’s only the weekend before the election that he decides to note Obama’s middle name — or middle initial — in this way. Ask yourself why. And then give me one reason other than to remind voters that Obama’s middle name is “Hussein.” And then explain to me how reminding people that that is Obama’s middle name isn’t playing on racial animus?
2. On Saturday in Florida, Trump said that Andrew Gillum, the African-American Democratic nominee for governor, was “not equipped” to do the job. “It’s not for him,” added Trump. Gillum, who is the mayor of Tallahassee, spent more than a decade on that city’s commission prior to ascending to his current post in 2015. It’s also worth noting that less than a week ago, Trump, referred to Gillum as a “thief” without making clear what evidence he had to make such a charge. (The FBI is currently investigating the Tallahassee city government, although Gillum has not been named in any of the subpoenas.)
3. Trump has repeatedly insisted that Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, who is black, is “not qualified” for the job which she is seeking. Trump didn’t elaborate, but it’s unclear what he objected to in Abrams’ resume; she is a graduate of Yale Law School and was minority leader of the Georgia state House prior to this bid.
In a vacuum, you could write off these three incidents to the arguments lots of Republicans make when asked about Trump: He’s an equal opportunity offender! He’s said plenty of nasty things about white people, too!
But we don’t live in a vacuum. And the truth of Trump’s life as a politician is that he has repeatedly shown a willingness to engage in the sort of racial dog-whistling — and, sometimes, outright whistling — that he knows motivates some portion of his base.