While shirts and signs supporting U.S. Rep. Andy Barr dotted the sea of red Make America Great Again hats, it was clear who was the star in Alumni Coliseum Saturday night: President Donald Trump.
Amid a tightly contested battle in Kentucky’s Sixth Congressional District, Trump took the stage to wild applause to tout his administration’s successes and stoked fear of a country under Democratic control.
“The election of Andy is a really important thing,” Trump told the crowd of 6,100. “It could make the difference between unbelievable continued success and frankly failure where we fight for two more years with these people, with these obstructionists.”
Barr is facing a tough challenge from former Marine pilot Amy McGrath and he was full of praise for a president who won the district by more than 15 points in 2016.
“Under the president my opponent voted for twice, you were forgotten,” Barr said. “Under President Donald J. Trump, you are remembered. And with Donald Trump and this congress, Kentuckians have found hope.”
But Barr’s message was different from the hyperbolic portrait Trump painted of a country under Democratic control: one overrun by gangs and with a lack of jobs.
“Democrats have become the party of crime, they have,” Trump said. “Republicans are the party of safety and we are the party of jobs, jobs, jobs.”
Trump went directly after McGrath with many of the attacks Republicans have laid out in commercials over the past few months. He called her the hand-picked candidate of Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Maxine Waters, both out of California.
“I had to do a little checking who Andy’s running against, this is an extreme liberal named Amy McGrath, chosen by Nancy Pelosi, Maxine Waters and the radical Democrat mob,” Trump said.
He said she supports open borders and that she supports socialized medicine. McGrath has pushed back against all of those claims.
“Mr. President, you clearly don’t know me. Yet,” she said.
Trumps visit comes the day after former Vice President Joe Biden appeared with McGrath in Bath County as the campaigns have made a push to make their presence seen among the rural voters in the district who will likely decide the election.
Madison County is the second largest county in the district but is widely seen as a swing county. While some at the rally came from bordering states and counties that aren’t in the Sixth Congressional District, Republicans hope to use the president’s popularity to increase turnout among the Republican base.
Several times throughout the night Trump urged the crowd to go to the polls on Election Day.
“On November 6, I need you to get your friends, get your family, get your neighbors and vote for Andy Barr,” Trump said.
Trump’s popularity is mixed in the Sixth District. Even though he won the district by a large margin in 2016, recent polling shows the voters are about split on whether they see the president favorably or unfavorably.
Across the street from the arena, protesters gathered to express their disapproval with the president and carried signs touting Amy McGrath and a “blue wave.”
“We understand that there are voters who are disappointed with the outcome of the last election who are very motivated right now. I get that, I hear it in my town hall meetings,” Barr said in an interview after the rally. “… but what I think can unite our country and what I think can unite the Sixth Congressional District is economic prosperity.”
Trump, too, hit on the theme of economic prosperity. He touted the low unemployment rate and said jobs were pouring into Kentucky. He said the government had ended the “war on clean, beautiful coal,” even though the number of coal jobs in Kentucky edged down between April and June.
“It means you’re making more money then you’ve ever made before,” Trump said.
The rally served as a sort of victory lap for the President, who had endorsed Barr on Twitter earlier in the day. The crowd was ready to chant their favorite slogans from the 2016 campaign, from “build the wall” to “lock her up.” They booed the journalists who covered the event and said “Make America Great Again” in unison with the president.
With Republican control in both Frankfort and Washington, along with Trump’s conservative victories in the White House, Barr is relying on the Trump voters who were motivated to show up to the polls in 2016.
And he wasn’t taking chances Saturday night.
“Do your part, get out the vote,” Barr told the crowd. “Let’s create a big red wave of victory in the Bluegrass State and in 24 days, in 23 days, lets continue to make America great again.”