Tri-State turns out for Trump
EVANSVILLE, Ind. — Area reaction to President Donald Trump’s Thursday campaign stop in Evansville, Indiana, mirrored that of his first visit as a presidential candidate in 2016 at the Old National Events Plaza.
As president, Trump’s visit filled the 11,000-capacity Ford Center. A line of people hoping to make it into the arena started more than 24 hours prior to the scheduled start of the event.
For some in the line, this was just one of many Trump rallies they’ve attended.
“We’re Americans first”
Saundra Kiczenski traveled more than 11 hours to watch Trump in Evansville, racking up her 21st rally.
Kiczenski started attending rallies in 2015 and has made it to ten states in the process.
Attending that many rallies ensures that Kiczenski has built relationships with other supporters in line. She said she sees a many of the same people at events, and sometimes groups will go out to dinner. “It’s like a family reunion,” she said.
Kiczenski said she realized when attending rallies that it was more fun than any concert or event she had attended before. “(There’s) so much energy in the room,” Kiczenski said.
While supporters lined the streets, protesters gathered as well. As the time of the rally drew closer, protest groups grew in size, but smaller groups were out for most of the day.
Lydia Johnson, Newburgh, stood with two other women holding signs near the line. Johnson’s had the message, “Honesty, Integrity still matter.”
Johnson said they want everyone to know that even though Trump won Indiana, not everyone holds that belief system. “It’s important every voice is heard,” Johnson said.
She said a lot of people were reading the signs and some did stop to ask questions about what they were here for. Johnson said everyone, at that point in the late afternoon, had been nice and respectful.
“(We’re) Americans first,” Johnson said, “regardless of how we vote.”
“Get out and vote Republican”
The president’s campaign message was simple: Vote for Mike Braun in November.
Braun, Indiana’s Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, faces incumbent Democrat Joe Donnelly in the November general election at a time when the GOP holds a 51-49 majority.
About ten minutes into the rally, Trump invited Braun on stage to speak to the crowd.
“He’s been a very successful businessman,” Trump said, “Which is really what our country needs. A lot of this is business.”
Braun told the crowd there’s never a dull moment in the pursuit for office.
“I love what the president said,” Braun said. “Because when someone tells you you can’t do something, for some of us, it causes us to even work harder.”
Braun said when he watched Trump “clear the field” in 2016, he knew there was no one else capable of beating Hillary Clinton.
“The other thing you need to know — is politicians too often say something and never follow up on it — this man makes promises and keeps them.”
Braun said that means Trump needs a true ally in Washington D.C., someone who does the same thing whether in Indiana or otherwise.
Braun said he could be that, but Donnelly would not. Donnelly has differed with the president on issues in the past. He voted in favor of the Affordable Care Act in 2010 and voted not to repeal in 2017.
“When I get there, you can count on that I’m going there for the right reasons,” Braun said.
Braun said he would not be going to the Senate for pay, perks or pensions.
For the rest of the rally, Trump roused the crowd on optics from immigration to Hillary Clinton, to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Trump also played to the crowd by mentioning and impersonating former Indiana University men’s basketball coach Bobby Knight, who appeared with him at the 2016 rally in Evansville.
Trump said he called Knight earlier in the day and told him he would be back in Indiana again. “I don’t need you to come from where you are,” Trump said he told Knight. “I just wanted to say hello to Bobby Knight because he’s special and he worked hard on our campaign.”
He told the crowd they helped build the country, and together they would help take back the country. He said ancestors who built Indiana were proud Americans who turned Indiana into a powerhouse of American people and American ingenuity.
“They didn’t have a lot of money, they didn’t have a lot of luxury,” he said. “But they loved their families, they loved their country, and they loved their God.”