President Trump told cheering conservative students Tuesday that America “will never surrender to mob violence,” warning that Democratic rival Joseph R. Biden would be a caretaker president who would allow leftist activists to control the streets.
“We will never cave to the left wing and the left-wing intolerance,” Mr. Trump told the crowd of about 3,000 in Phoenix, Arizona, a swing state where Mr. Biden has held a slim lead in polls.
Mr. Trump also repeated his opposition to the push for widespread voting by mail, saying the November contest is shaping up “the most corrupt election in the history of our country.”
“You have no time to fix this very complex process,” the president said. “We cannot let this happen. We are fighting for the integrity of our elections.”
The president referred to the vandalism and looting that has followed some demonstrations around the country since the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25. He criticized criminal demonstrators for tearing down statues around the nation.
“The left-wing mob is trying to demolish our heritage so they can replace it with a new repressive regime that they alone control,” Mr. Trump said. “They’re tearing down statues, desecrating monuments and purging dissenters. If you give power to people that demolish monuments and attack churches… and set fires to buildings, then nothing is sacred and no one is safe.”
“We have to cherish our history,” Mr. Trump said. “We don’t back down from left-wing bullies. And the only authority we worship is our God.”
He said Mr. Biden “wouldn’t call the shots” if elected president. Mr. Trump also poked fun at former President Barack Obama, who was holding his first official campaign for Mr. Biden on Tuesday.
“President Obama fought me harder… than crooked Hillary” in 2016, Mr. Trump said. “Um, who won?”
As the crowd roared its approval, the president added, “That’s right. And don’t forget, I’m only here because of President Obama and the job he did, and Sleepy Joe Biden and the job he didn’t do.”
The speech was billed as an “address to young Americans,” but it had more of a campaign rally atmosphere. The group sponsoring the vent is affiliated with Trump ally Charlie Kirk’s pro-Trump organization “Turning Point;” there were some empty seats in the venue and most attendees were not wearing masks as required by the city.
Mr. Obama said Tuesday that he is optimistic there is “a ‘great awakening’ going on around the country — particularly among younger people who are saying not only are they fed up with the shambolic, disorganized, mean-spirited approach to governance that we’ve seen over the last couple of years, but more than that are eager to take on some of the core challenges that have been facing this country for centuries.”
The president said Democrats have forfeited the right to tell Republicans how to run the country. He pointed to rioting in the past month in major Democratic-controlled cities, and the leftists who took over a “zone” in Seattle, Washington.
“We’re not going to take moral lectures from the same left-wing ideologues who oppose school choice, who support deadly sanctuary cities, who want to defund our police and abolish our police. Joe Biden has no control over what’s happening,” Mr. Trump said. “The murder rate in Detroit and Baltimore is higher than that of El Salvador, Guatemala or Afghanistan. Their movement is based on hate, ours is based on love. We embrace the noble vision of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and believe that people should not be judged based on the color of their skin, but the content of their character.”
One of the conservatives called to the stage by the president was Reagan Escude of Shreveport, Louisiana, who spoke of “all the chaos we’re seeing with the Black Lives Matter movement.”
“I’ve seen pastors call for white congregants to kneel and to apologize,” she said. “And to apologize for the skin that God gave them.”
Ms. Escude also criticized the “cancel” movement for getting rid of the “Aunt Jemima” brand of maple syrup, saying the woman it was modeled after was “a picture of the American dream.”
“Might I mention how privileged we are as a nation if our biggest concern is a bottle of pancake syrup,” she said.
The president’s speech was the boisterous follow-up to his sparsely attended “comeback” campaign rally last weekend in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Amid concerns about the coronavirus and leftist protesters, thousands of Trump supporters stayed away, leading to internal criticism of campaign manager Brad Parscale.
On the heels of that disappointing rally crowd, the White House and the Trump campaign announced a major personnel move on Tuesday: White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley is moving over to campaign team to serve as a top spokesman.
Mr. Trump called Mr. Gidley a “strong, loyal and trusted member of the team that I know will do an outstanding job!”
“We must WIN this election!” the president tweeted.
Mr. Parscale said the addition of Mr. Gidley, who will switch roles on July 1, makes the campaign team “even stronger.”
“Hogan Gidley has been at the president’s side for three years and now he joins the fight to re-elect him,” Mr. Parscale said in a statement. “He is a talented advocate and defender of the president and his policies and is never afraid to go into battle with hostile reporters and television hosts.”
Mr. Gidley said he is “overwhelmingly humbled and deeply appreciative to President Trump for giving me a front row seat to witness history.”
“My time at the White House has truly been a blessing beyond measure and getting to speak directly to the American people on behalf of this president has been an incredible honor,” he said. “President Trump’s record-setting accomplishments have improved the lives of all Americans, and I can’t wait to get over to the campaign and fight for his re-election.”
The president pointed out on Tuesday that the rally was viewed by an audience of about 7 million on Fox News, a record for the network on a Saturday night.
The Trump campaign also said it raised more than $10 million last weekend, along with the Republican National Committee and joint committees — more than the reported $7.6 million that Mr. Obama helped to raise for Mr. Biden on Tuesday.
Mr. Gidley has spent about three years as a top White House spokesman. His move also comes just a few months after Kayleigh McEnany left the campaign in her role as national spokeswoman to become White House press secretary.
Traveling with the president on Tuesday was Republican Sen. Martha McSally of Arizona, who is trailing badly in polls to Democratic challenger Mark Kelly, a retired astronaut.
The president pleaded good-naturedly with Mrs. McSally to pull out a victory in November.
“We need you in Washington. Will you please win?” Mr. Trump said. “It’s very important.”