EVANSVILLE, Ind. (AP) – President Donald Trump sought to turn up the pressure on Sen. Joe Donnelly at an Indiana rally Thursday night, saying the state must defeat the vulnerable Democrat because “Joe’s not going to vote for us on anything.”
Appearing in Evansville, Trump aimed to boost support for wealthy Republican businessman Mike Braun, who is facing off against Donnelly in what is viewed as one of the nation’s most competitive Senate races. The rally came as Trump kicks up his campaign travel with the midterm elections approaching.
Trump, who last visited the state in May, called Braun a “special guy” and said he will “be a truly great senator.” Before the rally, he attended a private roundtable and fundraising reception.
Braun took the stage and pledged to be a “true ally” to Trump, “not somebody that says something when you’re in Indiana and does something differently when you’re in D.C.”
In a state the president carried by roughly 19 percentage points in 2016, both candidates have sought to stress their connections to Trump. Braun has welcomed Trump’s backing, greeting him at the airport as he arrived in Indiana on Thursday afternoon.
Donnelly recently released an ad that showed the president thanking him as Trump signed “Right to Try” legislation. On his website, he promotes a study from Congressional Quarterly that shows he voted with Trump 62 percent of the time in 2017.
In a statement before the rally, Donnelly’s campaign manager said the candidate had had 22 proposals signed into law by Trump.
“He’s always willing to work with any president who has a good idea to help Hoosiers, but he’s never been, and never will be a rubber stamp for ideas from any administration that are wrong for Indiana,” said Peter Hanscom.
The president returned to the campaign trail after a bruising stretch, including widespread condemnation for his muted response to the death of Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the revelation that key outside associates had been granted immunity as part of one of the investigations circling the White House and a plea deal from his former personal attorney and the conviction of his onetime campaign chairman.
Heading into the final months of campaigning, the Republican Party is defending its majorities in the House and Senate, facing retirements and an energized Democratic opposition. Democrats are increasingly bullish about their chances to capture the 23 seats they need to retake the House of Representatives. But flipping the Senate remains a much tougher prospect, given that 10 incumbents are running in states Trump won.
Trump is aiming to spend more than 40 days on the campaign trail between the beginning of August and the Nov. 6 midterms, as he hopes to best his predecessors’ travel schedules, White House officials said. The officials said Trump wants to be on the road for Republicans more than President Barack Obama was for Democrats in 2010 – when his party suffered what Obama called a “shellacking” – and beyond what President George W. Bush did in 2002.
Colvin contributed from Washington.