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After GOP Victory In Georgia, Trump Fires Up A Crowd In Iowa


People in Iowa know the political calendar better than anyone. They know when in the election cycle presidents and presidential hopefuls come knocking. This is not typically one of those times. But there was President Trump last night in Cedar Rapids for a rally that felt like a throwback to 2016. When it comes to the health care bill expected to be unveiled by Senate Republicans today, Trump offered this view on bipartisanship.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Obamacare is a disaster. It's over, and there's nothing to compare what we're doing. I think - I hope, I hope the Republican Senate - if we went and got the single greatest health care plan in the history of the world, we would not get one Democrat vote because they're obstructionists. They're obstructionists.


GREENE: All right. NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson was at that rally in Iowa. And was that his sales job for this health care bill?

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Yes, so far, it is. He hopes it's going to be a good one. He didn't give us a lot of details about the bill that's going to be unveiled today. We do know that, privately, he has criticized the House bill as mean. This is the same House bill that he celebrated in that Rose Garden ceremony. He did say last night that he hopes the Senate plan will be a really good plan with heart and some more money. So that gives you an idea of how he'll be selling it. He's been briefed on the Senate bill. But we also know that, compared to his involvement in the House bill, he has been slightly less involved, and he is mostly leaving it to Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate.

GREENE: Yeah, because he spent a lot of last night not talking about that but talking about other stuff - but at a pretty good moment for Republicans. I mean, they won that hard-fought special election in Georgia. Could you feel the confidence from him?

LIASSON: There's no doubt that that was a very, very good night for the president. He talked about winning two more special elections. This was a big morale boost for the Republicans. Last night he talked about how all the news media would have painted a loss in those special elections as a big blow to him and his agenda, which is true. They would have done that. And he also expressed his contempt for Democrats again. Here he is.


TRUMP: They thought they were going to win.


TRUMP: And they've been unbelievably nasty - really nasty. And they thought - they spent close to $30 million on this kid who forgot to live in the community that he was in. I mean, you know.


LIASSON: So for a president at 36 to 40 percent approval ratings feeling persecuted by the Russia investigation, which he calls a witch hunt, that was a pretty sweet victory.

GREENE: Yeah. Who was in the crowd?

LIASSON: Well, the crowd was big and packed full of supporters. It was kind of like a giant feedback loop for the president. The people who came to this rally share his grievances. His grievances are their grievances. Here's Sonia Oddy (ph) from Cedar Rapids.

SONIA ODDY: I think media has been terrible to him. I believe that media is terrible in general. I don't believe half - not even half - I don't even believe a quarter - I don't believe hardly anything that I see or hear.

LIASSON: And other supporters, like Christine Graber (ph) from Wayland, Iowa, who came to the rally, talked about this so-called Russia cloud.

CHRISTINE GRABER: It's a diversion. It's not true. It's just something that the Democrats have been pounding on Trump to keep him busy and keep people's minds on that. I don't believe a word of it.

LIASSON: And others, like Linda Hinzie (ph), who drove from Mississippi to this rally, talked about the deep bond that the president has with his base voters.

LINDA HINZIE: He gets us, and he's for us. And it's obvious.

LIASSON: His base might be getting smaller, but they are still as enthusiastic as ever. And even though the number of people who strongly disapprove of the president now outnumbers the people who strongly approve of him, they are standing with him. They stood with him in that Georgia 6th Congressional District special elections, and they certainly were standing with him last night.

GREENE: OK. NPR senior political correspondent Mara Liasson talking to us about President Trump's rally in Iowa last night. And today, we are expecting this new health care bill from Senate Republicans to be unveiled. Mara, thanks.

LIASSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mara Liasson is a national political correspondent for NPR. Her reports can be heard regularly on NPR's award-winning newsmagazine programs Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Liasson provides extensive coverage of politics and policy from Washington, DC — focusing on the White House and Congress — and also reports on political trends beyond the Beltway.