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By Gregg Re | Fox News
At a rally on friendly turf in Kentucky Monday night, President Trump urged voters to send a powerful “signal” to Democrats and the world by electing staunch White House ally Matt Bevin another term as governor on Tuesday.
The result of the showdown in Kentucky — as well as Tuesday’s gubernatorial race in Mississippi and state legislature races in Virginia — could serve as a barometer on whether Trump still has the proven ability to rally Republicans at the voting booth amid Democrats’ ongoing impeachment inquiry.
Amid chants of “USA,” Trump repeatedly sought to leverage his accomplishments in office to boost Bevin, even reminding the audience at one point that American special forces had just provided “the world’s number-one terrorist a one-way ticket to hell.”
The president stood in front of throngs of attendees wearing “Read the transcript!” shirts — a reference to the White House’s readout of Trump’s July call with Ukraine’s leader, which has prompted Democrats to begin an impeachment inquiry even as Republicans insist the conversation was benign.
“We have confirmed 157 judges to follow the Constitution as written.” – President Trump at a #MAGA rally in Lexington, Kentucky#KeepAmericaGreat
“The Democrats are trying to tear our country apart,” Trump said, noting that partisans had pushed the “Russia hoax” and the “Mueller scam. … And then, Mr. Mueller testified. That was a wonderful day — for me.”
Calling The Washington Post “disgusting,” Trump noted that the paper had reported that impeachment was coming — just 19 minutes after he took office. (“At the moment the new commander in chief was sworn in, a campaign to build public support for his impeachment went live,” the Post’s piece read.)
Trump asserted that Democrats were “crazy” and obsessed with Russian conspiracy theories, noting that Hillary Clinton overtly claimed Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard was being “groomed” to be a “Russian asset.”
Thousands of supporters lined up outside the Rupp Arena in Lexington several hours in advance of the rally to boost Bevin, who has been locked in a dead heat with state Attorney General Andy Beshear, a Democrat.
TRUMP ISN’T ON THE BALLOT, BUT HE’S FRONT-AND-CENTER IN KEY UPCOMING STATE ELECTIONS
Trump carried Kentucky by 30 points when he won the presidency in 2016, and has remained popular there. However, Bevin has alienated some supporters by pushing to cut state pension programs and hammering public school teachers for striking — including his suggestion that the striking teachers indirectly bore responsibility for the shooting of a 7-year-old girl who remained at home because of school closures.
“This crowd really smells like flavored vape.”— Louisville Courier-Journal reporter Joe Sonka
“The greatest threat to our nation is that we are so blessed,” Bevin told attendees as Trump made his way to the arena. “We have it so good that we literally have the luxury of being able to afford to not care. Don’t let this happen on our watch. We’ve got to go to the polls tomorrow and let our voices be heard.”
Daniel Cameron, the GOP nominee for Kentucky attorney general, tied the election to Democrats’ ongoing impeachment inquiry against the president — and told voters they should send a specific message to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
“This is our president, and we’ll never let you take him away from this country,” Cameron said.
We’re just over 6 hours out from the big event with @realDonaldTrump and Gov. @MattBevin at Rupp Arena in Lexington and there’s already THOUSANDS out here to show their support for President Trump and Gov. Bevin!
Election Day is TOMORROW and we’re closing out strong!
While Trump supporters predominated outside the venue, approximately 50 vaping advocates wore “We vape, we vote” shirts and hoisted “Lock him up” signs, the Louisville Courier-Journal reported. The president has supported a ban on flavored vaping products.
“This crowd really smells like flavored vape,” remarked the Courier-Journal’s Joe Sonka.
Other protesters unfurled a giant “Baby Trump” balloon. Similar balloons have been seen at a variety of Trump events worldwide.
Bevin has long touted his connections with the president as beneficial to Kentucky. Trump headlined a Louisville fundraiser for Bevin this past summer.
Joe Sonka @joesonka
Andrew Yang has FOUR truckers circling the block.
Joe Sonka @joesonka
This crowd really smells like flavored vape.
Beshear has focused on state issues and Bevin’s feud with education groups in his bid to win in Kentucky.
Meanwhile, Vice President Mike Pence campaigned earlier Monday in Mississippi for the Republican nominee for governor.
“Mississippi and America need Tate Reeves to be the next governor of the great state of Mississippi,” Pence told hundreds of people at the Mississippi Gulf Coast Coliseum. “Tate Reeves is Mississippi. He’s a strong conservative.”
At times, the Reeves event in Biloxi sounded like a rally for Trump. People leaped to their feet and shouted, “four more years” when Pence relayed greetings from Trump.
The president campaigned for Reeves on Friday in Tupelo.
Reeves has been in his second term as lieutenant governor. The Democrat seeking the governor’s office, Jim Hood, is in his fourth as attorney general; Hood has received more funding than any other Democrat in such a Mississippi race in nearly a generation.
They’re on the ballot Tuesday along with two lesser-known candidates. The winner would succeed Republican Gov. Phil Bryant, who is limited by state law to two terms.
Mississippi has been locked in its most competitive governor’s race since 2003, when a Republican unseated the state’s last Democrat to hold the governor’s office. Reeves and Hood have been spending millions of dollars, with backing from national governors’ groups of both parties.
Air Force One (a C32A/757 today) wheels up from Andrews en route Lexington, KY for his rally tonight at Rupp Arena.
This year’s race has marked a dramatic change from four years ago, when the Democrat was a long-haul truck driver who didn’t vote for himself in the primary, raised little money and lost the general election by a wide margin.
Republicans have held the governorship in Mississippi for 24 of the past 28 years.
Separately, the president was blasting Louisiana’s incumbent Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat who was forced into a Nov. 16 runoff against Republican businessman Eddie Rispone in last month’s non-partisan primary election after coming close but ultimately failing to win a majority.
Trump is headed to the state on Wednesday to hold a rally for the Republican challenger, who also has been locked in a tight race in the deep-red state.
Leah Askarinam, a reporter and analyst with the non-partisan newsletter Inside Elections, noted that even in these increasingly partisan times, voters might be “willing to cross party lines when it comes to governance of their specific states.”
“Gubernatorial candidates can campaign on issues that are state-specific like the state’s budget and education funding — and they can cross party lines without facing the same kind of political pressure as Senate candidates who have to work with a national legislature,” Askarinam said. “We’ve seen candidates like John Bel Edwards support state policies that limit abortion access, for example, which is a much more difficult stance to take as a Democrat in the Senate.”
Fox News’ Paul Steinhauser and The Associated Press contributed to this report. Gregg Re is a lawyer and editor based in Los Angeles.