RICHMOND, Ky. — President Donald Trump heaped praise Saturday on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, crediting the veteran Kentucky lawmaker’s political toughness and acumen during the ugly battle that concluded with Brett Kavanaugh becoming a Supreme Court justice.
“He’s Kentucky tough,” Trump declared.
Kavanaugh took his seat on the high court this week after overcoming allegations of sexual misconduct dating to his high school and college years. He forcefully denied the charges, and Trump and McConnell firmly backed Kavanaugh as part of their combined quest to populate the judiciary with conservative judges. Kavanaugh could tilt the political balance of the high court in the conservative direction for generations.
“We stuck with him all the way because we knew the facts,” Trump said, speaking of himself and McConnell, Kentucky’s senior U.S. senator.
“There’s nobody tougher. There’s nobody smarter. He refused to cave to the radical Democrats’ shameful campaign of personal and political destruction,” Trump said at a political rally at Eastern Kentucky University before he called McConnell to the mic.
McConnell returned the compliment and told the president to continue nominating judges and “we’ll keep confirming them.”
Trump went to Kentucky to campaign for the Republican candidate in one of the country’s most closely watched congressional races. Three-term Republican Rep. Andy Barr is facing a strong challenge from Democrat Amy McGrath, a retired Marine fighter pilot.
Democrats are focusing on the seat in their drive to regain control of the House. Former Vice President Joe Biden became the highest-profile Democrat to campaign for McGrath when he came to Kentucky on Friday night.
Trump told the rally that a vote for Barr “could make the difference between unbelievable continued success” or failure, and pleaded with his supporters to vote on Nov. 6 to send more Republicans to Congress.
“The only reason to vote Democrat is if you’re tired of winning,” he said. “I need you to get your friends, get your family, get your neighbors, get your co-workers and get out and vote for Andy Barr,” Trump said.
Trump tweeted before the trip to Kentucky that Barr is strong on crime, tax cuts, the military, veterans and the Second Amendment.
Heading to the Great State of Kentucky – Big Rally for Congressman Andy Barr – Fantastic guy, need his vote for MAGA! Strong on Crime, Tax Cuts, Military, Vets & 2nd A. His opponent will NEVER vote for us, only for Pelosi. Andy has my Strongest Endorsement!!! See you in Kentucky.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 13, 2018
Trump added that McGrath “will NEVER vote for us” and that Barr has “my Strongest Endorsement.”
The president sounded familiar themes during the hour-plus rally, touting the economy’s performance, a new trade agreement with Canada and Mexico, and his plan for a new military branch devoted to outer space, among a host of other issues that led the crowd to cheer him.
With just over three weeks before Election Day, Saturday’s rally was part of an aggressive fall campaign push by Trump to energize Republicans and encourage them to help keep his legislative agenda moving forward by voting to keep the GOP in control of both houses of Congress.
In fact, even before Trump left the stage on Saturday night, his campaign announced a three-state Western swing through Missoula, Montana; Mesa, Arizona; and Elko, Nevada, next Thursday through Saturday.
However, the planned rally at Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond was not warmly welcomed by members of the university.
News outlets report that 120 faculty and staff signed a letter sent Wednesday to university President Michael Benson and the Board of Regents. It says they object to Trump’s campaign “which has consistently, openly, and unambiguously attacked the values of inquiry, learning, and free speech” that are central to higher education.
English professor Gerald Nachtwey says the opposition isn’t political. He says faculty support free speech on campus even when they disagree with the viewpoint.
Benson said the school’s freedom of speech policies require open use of the facilities.
Trump campaigned the day before for Ohio’s gubernatorial and congressional candidates.