As Gov. Matt Bevin and Vice President Mike Pence toured southeastern Kentucky Friday, at least two Bevin staffers had on red baseball caps similar to President Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” hats. The Bevin hats said “Going great in Kentucky Keep Bevin/Trump.”
The cap and the tour had the same message: Bevin is Trump’s guy.
Bevin has leaned hard on his ties with the Trump Administration as he attempts to become the first Republican in Kentucky history to win two terms as governor. He routinely tells voters on the campaign trail that he is “good friends” with the president and vice president, and he’s closing his campaign with them at his side to prove it. President Donald Trump is scheduled to attend a rally in Lexington Monday.
“I am here for one reason and one reason only and that is that Kentucky and America need four more years of Governor Matt Bevin,” Pence said to a couple hundred people at the Laurel London Optimist Club.
The effort appears necessary. Bevin faces a tight race with Attorney General Andy Beshear, who has run a campaign painting himself as the opposite of the brash governor who has angered many with controversial comments about his political opponents, including teachers.
Earlier in the day, Bevin thanked first-responders in Whitley County, where he lost in the Republican primary against Rep. Robert Goforth, R-East Bernstadt, by nearly 25 percentage points.
“This is Trump Country, let there be no doubt about it,” Bevin said. “And the reason is not because this man is from here, not because he has everything exactly in common with everyone who is assembled here, but because he loves America and these people love America.”
Though Bevin isn’t very popular among Republicans in southeastern Kentucky, Trump is. He won the region by large margins in 2016 and all of Friday’s campaign stops were dotted with signs of support for Trump.
Jamie Miracle, of Corbin, was wearing a Trump 2020 button at Shep’s Place in Corbin. She said she isn’t a fan of Bevin because of his stance on pensions and hasn’t decided who she’ll vote for Tuesday, but she was excited to see Pence.
“I wasn’t going to vote for Bevin, but Beshear…” Miracle said, trailing off. “It’s really going to come down to the last few days.”
Miracle said she doesn’t think of a vote for Bevin as a vote for Trump, calling them separate entities. But she said Trump’s support for Bevin has helped him in her eyes.
“It has [helped], I’m not going to lie,” Miracle said. “If he’s really going to go with their game plan, then yeah. I’m fully for Trump and Pence.”
Pence and Bevin didn’t make a speech at Shep’s place. Instead they worked their way around the restaurant, smiling, shaking hands and taking selfies.
Senate President Robert Stivers looked toward the crowded bar and said he’s seen a lot of enthusiasm among Republican voters in the final days of the campaign.
“I think the momentum was swinging the governor’s way, everything was moving that way and this just locks it down in my opinion,” Stivers said.
Stivers said some of the momentum is coming from news at the national level, where Democrats voted on formal rules for the impeachment inquiry into Trump earlier this week. Both Bevin and Pence hit on the impeachment inquiry in their speeches in London.
“If you want to send a message to Washington D.C. that enough is enough and Kentucky is tired of the endless investigation and their partisan impeachment,” Pence said. “If you want to send a message to the do-nothing Democrats that Kentucky supports Donald Trump, vote Republican.”
Pence also went aggressively after Beshear, saying the Democrat wanted to raise taxes and tied him to national Democrats — something Beshear has gone out of his way to avoid.
“Andy Beshear has made it clear that if he becomes governor, he’s going to work to undo everything that president Trump and our administration has been able to do,” Pence said.