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Indiana rally returns Trump to campaign roots, projects party unity

President Donald Trump is returning to his campaign roots with big-stage events allowing him to target vulnerable Senate Democrats and mobilize his most fervent supporters on behalf of Republicans.

Posted: May 10, 2018 10:08 AM
Updated: May 10, 2018 8:30 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — Taking the reins as party leader, President Donald Trump is returning to his campaign roots with big-stage events allowing him to target vulnerable Senate Democrats and mobilize his most fervent supporters on behalf of Republicans.

Trump was set to rally supporters in Elkhart, Indiana, on Thursday night, two days after state Republicans nominated former state lawmaker Mike Braun to challenge vulnerable Democratic U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly. Trump's political advisers view the event, which will also be attended by home-state Vice President Mike Pence, as a way to project party unity following a bruising primary.

Trump, who helped the Republican National Committee raise a record $132 million last year, has told advisers he is eager to ramp up his campaign travel on behalf of Republicans. The president carried 10 states in 2016 that have Democratic senators on the ballot this year and is expected to campaign heavily to help Republicans maintain Senate and House majorities and elect GOP governors.

"The president takes his role as leader of the Republican Party very seriously and after more than a year in office he understands too few Democrats are willing to join hands across party lines to support issues that the American people resoundingly called for," said White House political director Bill Stepien. "The president's calendar is mapped out with his political priorities in mind."

For Trump, who is preparing for a historic meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un amid an ongoing investigation into Russian election meddling and daily developments about his personal attorney's payments to a porn actress, the travel will allow him to frame the campaign debate, specifically Donnelly's no vote on last year's tax overhaul.

Trump's political advisers chose to hold the rally in the heart of Donnelly's political base. Before his 2012 election, the senator represented a House district that included Elkhart.

The city, home to manufacturing jobs and the recreational vehicle industry, was also paid a visit by President Barack Obama in 2009 when the region was suffering from unemployment rates surpassing 19 percent. Obama returned to Elkhart in 2016 to point to economic progress, but Trump carried the county and much of the region overwhelmingly that year.

Ahead of the rally, Donnelly's campaign said the senator had voted with Trump 62 percent of the time "because he works for Hoosiers, not any politician or political party."

The Indiana rally will be Trump's fourth political-style event in the past two weeks. Trump skipped the White House Correspondents' Dinner late last month to rally supporters in Macomb County, Michigan.

His speech last week to the National Rifle Association in Dallas put him before thousands of gun-rights activists who actively backed his campaign. And last Saturday, Trump was in Ohio, long the key electoral piece for any GOP presidential hopeful.

During the event in Cleveland, Trump was joined by Rep. Jim Renacci, who won the Republican Senate nomination on Tuesday with the president's endorsement. Trump said Renacci's opponent, Democratic U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, "does not think the way we think ... when it comes to borders, when it comes to so much," delivering a message that Republicans hope to hear frequently.

"If President Trump is willing to go out and define some of these opponents, it's extremely helpful to those campaigns," said Barry Bennett, a former Trump campaign aide. "He'll deliver the negative messages, they can deliver the positive."

Ahead of West Virginia's U.S. Senate primary, Trump tweeted that Republican candidate Don Blankenship couldn't win the November election against Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, a top GOP target.

Advisers said the president was pleased that Republicans nominated Attorney General Pat Morrissey, considered a stronger challenger against Manchin.

"In West Virginia, his one tweet single-handedly swung the dynamics of a race," Stepien said.

Stepien said Trump would engage in a similar way in future races "if he feels particularly strongly about a race or feels a particular connection to a candidate" but added that would happen less often.

A key to Trump's message will be energizing low-propensity Republican voters in 2018, many of whom turned out for the first time in years to vote for him.

As he travels the country, Trump will face the question of whether his appeal is transferable to down-ballot candidates, much in the way that Obama struggled to rally core Democrats when he wasn't running himself.

Obama suffered broad losses in Congress and in statehouses during the 2010 and 2014 midterm elections, an outcome Trump hopes to avoid.

Appearing at a Cabinet meeting, Trump said that Tuesday ended up being "a very big night for the Republican Party" in primaries in West Virginia, Ohio and elsewhere.

"Every candidate that we wanted won, and they did very well," Trump said Wednesday. "There was tremendous enthusiasm."

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On Twitter follow Ken Thomas at https://twitter.com/KThomasDC

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Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 665285

Reported Deaths: 12697
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion910581653
Lake48637887
Allen36050641
Hamilton32231398
St. Joseph30243514
Elkhart25484420
Vanderburgh21315382
Tippecanoe20185205
Johnson16425361
Porter16053276
Hendricks15899301
Clark12032182
Madison11779321
Vigo11672231
Monroe10394164
Delaware9879179
LaPorte9821198
Howard9095199
Kosciusko8588111
Bartholomew7504147
Warrick7445153
Hancock7439134
Floyd7255172
Wayne6654192
Grant6453157
Boone611991
Morgan6118126
Dubois5933112
Dearborn550669
Cass5477100
Marshall5446105
Henry542695
Noble510978
Jackson465567
Shelby462591
Lawrence4193113
Gibson404985
Harrison402764
Clinton397053
Montgomery390584
DeKalb387178
Knox357885
Miami357863
Whitley350638
Huntington348377
Steuben339855
Wabash333076
Putnam331960
Ripley327862
Adams325149
Jasper318443
White298052
Jefferson295974
Daviess285696
Fayette272656
Decatur271388
Greene262280
Posey261432
Wells258975
Scott251450
LaGrange242170
Clay241444
Randolph225877
Spencer219330
Jennings216344
Washington213027
Sullivan203639
Fountain202542
Starke189251
Owen183453
Fulton179637
Jay178528
Carroll176919
Perry173836
Orange171351
Rush165422
Vermillion161542
Franklin159735
Tipton149241
Parke140116
Pike128433
Blackford120627
Pulaski107544
Newton96732
Brown95240
Benton92413
Crawford92113
Martin80314
Warren75914
Switzerland7558
Union67510
Ohio54111
Unassigned0434

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