Elections

In Topeka, Trump seeks to turn Kavanaugh victory into Republican rallying cry

President Donald Trump reveled in the confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh on Saturday to the U.S. Supreme Court during a rally with thousands of supporters in Kansas.

Thunderous cheers greeted Trump, who denounced Democrats as an “angry, left-wing mob” in the wake of their opposition to Kavanaugh.

The 50-48 Senate vote to confirm Kavanaugh came after weeks of controversy following sexual assault allegations leveled against him.

“They threw away and threw aside every notion of decency and due process,” Trump said to the crowd inside the Kansas Expocentre in Topeka.

“Radical Democrats,” he said, launched a “disgraceful campaign” to discredit Kavanaugh from the moment his nomination was announced this summer.

The U.S. Senate confirmed Kavanaugh just hours before the rally began.

“That Kavanaugh would be confirmed on the day Trump was here is poetic justice for the state of Kansas,” said Mary Kay Culp, executive director of Kansans for Life, pointing to the state’s contentious debate over abortion.

Rally attendee Suzanne Avery, a veterinarian from Westmoreland, Kan., said the controversy surrounding Kavanaugh’s confirmation had driven her enthusiasm for the midterm elections “100 percent.”

“It’s terrible what they’ve done to him, they’ve crucified him for no reason,” Avery said.

After long-standing talk of a blue wave of Democrats winning midterm elections this fall and possibly retaking the U.S. House, the tumultuous journey of Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court has given Republicans new reason to grow passionate about getting to the polls.

“The last eight years, we kept our mouth shut,” said Julie Haase, a cosmetologist from North Newton, with the Obama administration on her mind. “And now we’re going to roar.”

Trump sought to turn the Kavanaugh victory — and the Democratic opposition to him — into a rallying cry for Republicans.

“Every American has now seen the profound stakes in the upcoming election,” Trump said.

Before the rally began, a chant of “Kavanaugh!” rang through the crowd shortly after the Senate vote.

Not everyone was happy. Anti-Trump protestors rallied outside the arena.

“I just wish he would listen to people more and not be so selfish and do everything for himself,” said Debbie Gray, a protester from Topeka.

Nichole Saunders, a factory worker from Topeka, was blunt: “It’s a terrifying situation.”

At a rally earlier in the week, Trump mocked Christine Blasey Ford, Kavanaugh’s first accuser, who says he sexually assaulted her when they were both in high school. Kavanaugh has denied the allegations.

On Saturday night, however, Trump did not speak about Ford.

Saturday’s rally was the third time that small business owner Stephen Bayer has seen Trump speak in recent months. The Spring Hill man said he’s left the Republican Party, but is a devoted supporter of the president and will vote for Republicans as a result.

“I’ve got one dog in the fight and he’s an alpha male and his name’s Trump,” Bayer said.

Bayer said he’s never been this passionate for a president, or a midterm election, before.

“We couldn’t have paid for a better fire to be built under the Republican Party than that Kavanaugh spectacle,” he said.

Although Trump opened the rally speaking about Kavanaugh, the rally was a campaign stop for Kris Kobach, the Republican candidate for governor, and Steve Watkins, the Republican candidate for the state’s 2nd Congressional district.

Trump joked that he wanted Kobach to lose so that he could take a job in his administration.

Kobach is locked in a tight battle with Democrat Laura Kelly. Recent polls have showed the two in a virtual tie.

“I want to do for Kansas what President Trump has done for America,” Kobach said after Trump called him on stage.

But Kelly responded by saying that Kobach “would love to make this race about what’s happening in Washington rather than what’s happening in Kansas,” because he’s struggling to explain his continued support for former Gov. Sam Brownback’s agenda.

Watkins is also in a close race, against Democrat Paul Davis. Some polling has shown Davis with a small lead in the race.

Davis hit back after Trump attempted to tie him and others to Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. Davis tweeted that he has pledged to not support Pelosi for speaker or leader.

“I’m a lifelong Kansan, an independent leader & I want to fix a broken Congress,” Davis tweeted.

Beyond praising Kobach and Watkins, Trump stuck to familiar rally themes: the scourge of illegal immigration, the economy and jibes at the news media.

He attacked Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren, mocking her “high cheekbones.” Trump has often attacked Warren over her claims of Native American heritage, calling her “Pocahontas.”

Rep. John Carmichael, a Wichita Democrat, called the speech disturbing, and singled out the comment about Warren.

“The president’s speaking style was reminiscent of Benito Mussolini. Disturbing, very disturbing,” Carmichael said.

Trump also challenged former Vice President Joe Biden to a fight, and said he would win.

He touted his decision to withdraw the United States from the Iran nuclear deal that was forged under President Barack Obama. And he defended his decision to meet with North Korean leadership.

“What the hell do we lose by meeting?” Trump said.

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