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From “vermin” to “demolish,” Trump ramps up rhetoric against opponents

First Read is your briefing from the NBC News Political Unit on the day’s most important political stories and why they matter.
Image: Former President Trump Visits The Southern Border With Texas Governor Abbott
Former President Donald Trump speaks at the South Texas International airport on on Nov. 19, 2023 in Edinburg, Texas. Michael Gonzalez / Getty Images

Happening this Tuesday: President Biden and VP Harris attend tribute service for former First Lady Rosalynn Carter… Israel-Hamas truce enters fifth day… Embattled Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., faces potential expulsion from House… Nikki Haley’s campaign activity lags her rivals’ events… And pro-Dean Phillips ad swipes at Biden’s electability. 

But FIRST… Since it’s important to take Donald Trump’s statements both seriously and literally — especially after Jan. 6 — it’s worth recapping what Trump HAS said over the past month.

At a rally in New Hampshire, the former president vowed to “root out” groups he characterized as “vermin” who act as threats from within the United States. 

In an interview with Univision, he suggested he would use the FBI and Justice Department to go after his opponents. “If I happen to be president and I see somebody who’s doing well and beating me very badly, I say, ‘Go down and indict them.’ They’d be out of business. They’d be out of the election,” he said.  

Trump promised to “demolish” the “Deep State” and “drive out” the “globalists” in a post on his social-media platform. 

 He’s revived the effort to eliminate Obamacare, saying: “The cost of Obamacare is out of control, plus, it’s not good Healthcare. I’m seriously looking at alternatives... [W]e should never give up!”

On top of it all, the Washington Post reported earlier this month that Trump allies have proposed he invoke the Insurrection Act on his first day in office — if he wins back the White House — to allow him to deploy the military against civil demonstrations.  

These are all things that Trump has directly said or that his allies have proposed.

And Democrats are betting that Trump’s standing against Biden will slip as voters pay more attention to Trump’s comments and remember the “chaos” of the Trump years.

That was Pennsylvania Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro’s case in a recent interview with NBC News’ Allan Smith, in which Shapiro said voters currently have “brain fog” when it comes to Trump. 

“As people are reminded of what it was like and they are forced to tune back in and listen to that during the course of a presidential race, they’re going to reject his extremism, his chaos and his danger,” he said.

 Headline of the day:

The number of the day is … 197

That’s how many campaign events entrepreneur and Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy has held across 14 states and Washington D.C. since late May, per NBC’s Lindsey Pipia.

Ramaswamy has held the most events of any candidate in the GOP presidential primary since NBC News started tracking events in May. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is second to Ramaswamy with 185 total events — 108 of them just in Iowa.

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum has held 77 events, while former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley has held 72, even though she’s risen in public opinion polling this fall.

And the frontrunner, former President Donald Trump, has held 58 total campaign events since late May.

Check out more on the Meet the Press Blog

Eyes on 2024: Democrats look to seize on Trump’s Obamacare comments

Democrats are hoping to seize on Trump’s recent comments that the Republican Party “should never give up” on its push to repeal the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, leveraging an issue that so far has not dominated the 2024 race.

“It’s almost perfect that Trump would pick the one thing they haven’t really put front and center, which we know is incredibly unpopular, and say ‘Yeah, I’m gonna do this, too!’” one Biden adviser told NBC’s Sahil Kapur. 

Kapur reports that the Biden campaign intends to focus on Trump’s comments in TV ads and elsewhere, with the adviser saying, “No tactic is out of the question.”  

The New York Times also reports that the Biden campaign is planning to launch TV ads this week in the Las Vegas media market and on national cable networks focused on health care, touting Biden’s work on prescription drug costs and noting Trump’s call to repeal Obamacare. 

The campaign is also deploying surrogates focused on health care, with North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper and former Speaker Nancy Pelosi holding a press call with the Biden campaign on Tuesday to discuss Trump’s comments.

Democrats’ mobilization underscores the party’s advantage on health care. GOP efforts to repeal Obamacare helped fuel Democratic gains in the 2018 midterms, and a recent NBC News poll found that more voters trust Democrats on the health care issue.

In other campaign news…

Haley goes home: Haley returned to her home state of South Carolina on Monday for a town hall event that more resembled a rally, per Politico. And CNBC reports that billionaire Ken Langone, the co-founder of Home Depot, is planning to meet with Haley next week as he weighs backing her presidential run.  

DeSantis and donors: DeSantis was set to meet with potential donors on Monday for the new Fight Right super PAC backing his presidential bid, as his campaign welcomed the group’s support in a memo, the Washington Post reports.  

Trump takes the stand: Former President Donald Trump will take the stand in his own defense in his civil fraud trial in New York next month.

The electability argument: In a new TV ad, a super PAC backing Rep. Dean Phillips’ bid for the Democratic presidential nomination questions President Biden’s electability.

Undercard clash: Politico previews the upcoming Fox News debate between Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and California Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Michigan Senate shake up: Pamela Pugh, Michigan’s state Board of Education President, is dropping out of the state’s Senate race and opting instead to run in Michigan’s 8th District, an open seat.

Wooing donors: As House Republicans’ campaign arms lags in fundraising, Senate Republicans are urging donors to contribute to GOP efforts to take back the Senate instead, Politico reports.

Red state, blue city tension: State lawmakers have proposed nearly 700 bills across the country that would regulate what cities and counties can do, creating tension between Republican-controlled state legislatures and Democratic-controlled cities, the Washington Post reports. 

ICYMI: What ELSE is happening in the world

Former President Jimmy Carter is in Atlanta and is expected to attend funeral services for his wife, former first lady Rosalynn Carter, on Tuesday.

Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., could face another vote of expulsion from the House of Representatives as soon as this week, NBC’s Scott Wong, Ali Vitali and Kyle Stewart report.

NBC’s Ryan Nobles and Sarah Fitzpatrick report that Hunter Biden’s legal team hasn’t yet answered a subpoena from the House Judiciary Committee to appear for a transcribed interview next month, but they are weighing how to respond.