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  • Trump takes in the applause during Monday's rally. From Fort Wayne, he went to Cape Girardeau, Mo., for the last of three rallies he held the day before the election. (Photos by Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette)

  • Crowds of Trump supporters hold up signs during the rally. More than 10,000 people filled the Coliseum.

  • A supporter of President Donald Trump sits on the shoulders of another supporter to stir up the crowd before Monday evening's political rally at Memorial Coliseum.  

  • Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter, delivers remarks at Monday night’s rally.  

  • President Donald Trump speaks at a rally Monday at Memorial Coliseum, becoming the first sitting president to be in Fort Wayne since 1982.

Tuesday, November 06, 2018 1:00 am

Trump rally rocks Coliseum

President on stump for Braun, touts GOP successes to full house

BRIAN FRANCISCO | The Journal Gazette

President Donald Trump tried to fire up Republicans and demonize Democrats during a Fort Wayne rally on the eve of today's midterm election – while also saying he wants to reconcile with his opponents at some point.

Trump spoke for about an hour at Memorial Coliseum, where he praised his administration and the GOP Congress for their policies and practices on everything – the economy, trade, taxes, immigration, health care, crime, Supreme Court appointments – and condemned Democrats for standing in the way on all of it. His audience regularly cheered or booed as if on cue.

“There's only one way to stop this Democat-led assault on America's sovereignty. You have to vote Republican tomorrow,” Trump told more than 10,000 people at the Coliseum, many of them wearing clothing and caps bearing Trump's name and campaign slogans.

“This election is about safety, and this election is about jobs,” Trump said. “For years, you watched as we let foreign countries plunder our wealth, shutter our factories and steal our jobs. But those days are over. And in case you haven't noticed our country is respected again.”

He described the people who elected him in 2016 and continue to support him as “the greatest political movement in the history of our country. It really is. I mean, I don't even think it's close.”

“The fact is, I shouldn't say this 'cause I want to unite, I do eventually want to unite, but the fact is we're driving (Democrats) crazy,” Trump said. “We're driving them crazy. They don't know what to. They're going loco, loco. That's all right. Hopefully it's all going to come together someday like a beautiful puzzle.”

But in the next breath he said Democrats “are on a shameless campaign to obstruct, resist, demolish, defame and destroy. ... But you can stop them with your votes tomorrow. We will not be intimidated by mob rule, because our movement is America's movement.”

Three protesters – at least two of whom were seen waving their middle fingers toward Trump – were removed from the building, with Trump saying, “Go back home to Mommy.”

“I don't know what it is about Indiana, but I'm not surprised,” he said about the protesters. “I haven't had one of these things happen in a long time and now I have three of them tonight. That's Indiana for you, that's Indiana.”

At one point, Trump paused his remarks for a few minutes after a man collapsed on the floor near the stage and was wheeled out on a stretcher.

Trump became the first president to visit Fort Wayne since Ronald Reagan assessed local flooding in 1982. Trump was in town to boost Mike Braun, the Republican candidate challenging Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind. That seat is among several in the nation that could swing to either party in today's election and determine partisan control of the Senate, now run by the GOP.

“A vote for Mike Braun is a vote to keep your jobs going, to keep your wages going up and to take care once and for all” of health care reform, Trump said. 

He called Donnelly “an extreme liberal Democrat” who has “gone rogue because now he likes Trump a lot. He loves my border policy. ... And all of a sudden, he's talking about what we've been talking about.”

The 45th president said that by Wednesday, Donnelly “will be totally against us, he'll never vote for us, he will never, ever vote for us.”

Donnelly has said repeatedly during the campaign that he has voted in favor of Trump's positions on legislation 62 percent of the time as a senator.

Donnelly said Monday night in a statement: “While President Trump rallied in Fort Wayne, our coordinated campaign knocked on tens of thousands of doors, called hundreds of thousands of Hoosier voters, and texted countless more supporters to remind them to vote. We'd like to thank the president for keeping thousands of committed Braun supporters off the phones and doors the night before the election. In an election this close, every little bit helps.”

Indiana Democratic Party Chairman John Zody said in a statement about Braun, “He'd help President Trump take away health care for 1.1 million Hoosiers under 65 with pre-existing conditions, help (Senate Majority Leader) Mitch McConnell slash Medicare and Social Security, and he'd help himself by passing more tax cuts that help the wealthiest Americans at the expense of working families.”

Braun told the Coliseum crowd that he's running against Donnelly “for the right reasons. Not the pay and the perks, not the nestling in D.C. I signed a term limits pledge. It's to help somebody that's shaking up Washington” – a reference to Trump, which produced chants of “Drain the swamp” from the packed arena.

“We need more reinforcements (in Congress) from the real world. People that have done something,” said Braun, who owns a national auto parts distribution company in Jasper.

Trump earlier introduced a procession of his aides to the stage – daughter Ivanka Trump, counselor Kellyanne Conway and White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

“We love you, we really love you, and we are fighting for you each and every day,” Ivanka Trump told the audience. “And tomorrow we want you to all turn out and help us fight back so we can continue to keep this rolling, this moment of opportunity unlike anything this country has ever seen. Truly it's a golden opportunity.”

Conway said, “I love me some Hoosiers,” then led the crowd in a chant of “Joe must go.”

Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., and Rep. Jim Banks, R-3rd, who is being challenged by Democrat Courtney Tritch, spoke at the rally, as did former University of Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz.

“The one thing I know about Indiana people: You're fair,” Holtz said. “And what's happenin' in Washington, ladies and gentlemen, is not fair. Everybody's gangin' up on President Trump: the Democrats, the media, the academicians. We must send people to Washington to help the president have a fair fight so we get the damn thing done.”

Polling results released Monday by the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics at Purdue University Fort Wayne showed only 44 percent of Indiana registered voters approve of Trump's job performance and 46 percent disapprove. The nonpartisan Downs Center called the numbers a virtual tie because the difference between them fell within the credibility interval – similar to a margin of sampling error – of 3.9 percent.

The survey found that 10 percent of respondents who were “not sure” about Trump's performance. The poll involved 1,048 registered voters and was conducted from Oct. 12 through Oct. 16. 

People attending Trump's rally had no doubts about him.

“I believe in what he stands for. He has done amazing things,” said Fort Wayne resident Kim Clemons, 48. She was at the rally with her husband, an aunt and an uncle.

“He's a businessman, he's treating (the presidency) like a business, like it should be,” said New Haven resident Richard Grayless, 65. “You can't do the job, I get rid of you. He needs to clean the house.”

Grayless wore a T-shirt that stated: “I Support LGBT – Liberty, Guns, Bible, Trump.”

Many analysts believe the election will be a referendum on Trump and the Republican candidates who align with him. Democrats need to gain two seats in the 100-seat Senate and 23 in the 435-seat House to win majorities in either chamber. The House is regarded as the more likely to switch majorities in part because dozens of Republican incumbents are not seeking re-election or have resigned.

Trump also campaigned Monday for Republican candidates in Cleveland and Cape Girardeau, Missouri.

bfrancisco@jg.net