MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — President Donald Trump aimed to boost Republican congressional candidates in Minnesota Thursday, as the GOP hopes to fend off a Democratic effort to recapture the House of Representatives.
Trump landed in Minneapolis in the afternoon and headed to a fundraiser. He was set to appear later at an evening rally in Rochester, friendly territory in the traditionally liberal state, where Republicans are targeting two Democratic districts but playing defense in two GOP-held districts in the Minneapolis suburbs.
Outside Washington, the focus still remained on the dramatic nomination process for Trump's Supreme Court nominee. Trump told reporters he thinks Brett Kavanaugh is "doing very well" as senators weigh a new FBI background report prompted by allegations of sexual misconduct.
Trump earlier tweeted his support for Kavanaugh, who is accused of a sexual assault at a high school party, saying, "Due Process, Fairness and Common Sense are now on trial!" Trump has sought to use the Kavanaugh confirmation conflict to appeal to white men, arguing that the accusations are proof that innocent men could be unfairly targeted.
The outcome in Minnesota could prove critical as Republicans seek to counter Democratic enthusiasm in the midterm elections.
The president is campaigning for Republican Jim Hagedorn, who is seeking an open congressional seat in the 1st Congressional District, a Republican-leaning area Democrats have controlled for 12 years. Hagedorn, who came close to unseating the outgoing congressman in 2016, has been an unabashed supporter of Trump and hopes the publicity from the rally will help put him over the top.
Trump also will appear with Rep. Jason Lewis, who is facing a close re-election race in the Minneapolis suburbs. But Republican Rep. Erik Paulsen, who is also fighting to hold a suburban seat, did not plan to attend, underscoring the president's mixed popularity in the state.
The president's sinking support in the suburbs has put both lawmakers in a tricky position against well-financed Democrats. But in a new memo, the White House argues that candidates who distance themselves from Trump will suffer this fall. Officials contrasted Lewis' request to campaign with Trump with Paulsen's efforts to keep his distance. The White House believes Paulsen's rejection of Trump will sink his candidacy.
The White House memo acknowledges that Republicans are facing an enthusiasm gap, but suggests this is where Trump can make up the difference — for those candidates willing to take his help. Republicans who don't talk about Trump or his accomplishments, the White House warns, will make a tough situation a whole lot tougher.
Trump has used campaign rallies in an effort to boost Republican turnout, encouraging the voters he drew to the polls in 2016 to support more staid traditional lawmakers. Both parties largely view the 2018 contest as a race to turn out party faithful rather than an effort to attract new voters.