LEXINGTON, Ky. — President Donald Trump made a last-minute push on Monday night for Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, a strong ally who is facing a tough re-election bid in a deep-red state that should be a shoo-in for Republicans.
"Here's the story," Trump told thousand of supporters ahead of Tuesday's election. "If you win, they are going to make it like, ho hum. And if you lose, they are going to say Trump suffered the greatest defeat in the history of the world. You can't let that happen to me!"
Trump's campaign is hoping the president, who won Kentucky by 30 percentage points in 2016, can give Bevin a boost over Democrat Andy Beshear, the state's attorney general, in what is regarded as a close contest, as the president continues to road test his message on the impeachment inquiry dogging his administration.
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Seated behind Trump, in view of the television cameras, was a large group of supporters in white T-shirts that said "Read the Transcript" — a reference to the president's call with Ukraine's leader, which Trump has called "perfect" but which Democrats charge reveals a quid pro quo over military assistance to that country.
With less than a year to go before the presidential election, Trump is looking to take credit for as many victories around the country as possible — even in states where the GOP should win easily — to show he is still a potent political force despite the headlines surrounding impeachment, a White House official said.
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Trump, who on the campaign trail often glosses over the candidate he's there to support in lieu of his own agenda, laid into Bevin's opponent, saying Beshear would take a "wrecking ball" ball to the state's economy and be "too dangerous" for Kentucky.
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who Trump turned the mic over to at one point, drew some of the loudest cheers of the night when he called on the media to out the whistleblower who first raised concern about Trump's Ukraine phone call.
"Do your job and print his name," Paul said of the media to cheers from the crowd and praise from Trump, who called the senator's remarks "excellent."
Trump has been making a swing through states holding governors races this month.
The president will travel to Louisiana on Wednesday to throw his support behind the Republican nominee in the governor's race there, Eddie Rispone, before the Nov. 16 runoff election. In October, Trump's campaign claimed his last-minute visit helped Rispone force a runoff by keeping the Democratic incumbent, John Bel Edwards, under 50 percent of the vote.
Wednesday will be Trump's third 2020 campaign rally in less than a week, with officials signaling they would not be surprised if he returned to Louisiana before the election a week from Saturday.