President Trump uses Elkhart rally to mobilize GOP for 2018 midterms

President Trump during his rally in Elkhart // WSBT 22

The eyes of the nation were on Michiana Thursday.

President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence were at North Side Middle School in Elkhart, kicking off what is expected to be a fierce battle for Indiana's Senate seat.

Watch the full video of the rally in the player above.

First up was Pence, who touted what he sees as victories for the administration, including tax reforms, protecting the 2nd Amendment and pulling out of the Paris Climate Accord.

“This president promises to enforce our laws and secure our borders,” said VP Pence “…this president secured funding for the first 100 miles of a new border wall…I promise you, when it comes to that wall, we’re going to build it all!”

Pence cited the recent RV boom as evidence that Trump is bringing jobs back to America.

"Elkhart County has the fifth lowest unemployment rate in are coming back. Under Donald Trump, America is coming back and we're just getting started!" said VP Pence.

Pence said the president is making progress on North Korea and bringing home three Americans who were held there. He noted that the U.S. is pulling out of the "disastrous" Iran nuclear deal and opening up the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem.

Pence praised Mike Braun as well.

"Mike Braun is a job creator. He is a conservative who I've known for many years, and he is going to bring Indiana values to Washington. Mike Braun will stand for Donald Trump," said VP Pence.

Braun won the US Republican Senate Primary for Indiana this week.

Pence and Trump used the rally to implore Republicans to mobilize during the 2018 midterm election.

Obviously one of the big races in Indiana will be for the US Senate seat that is currently held by Democrat Joe Donnelly.

The administration's goal Thursday seemed to be exciting the base about this battle with Donnelly and getting them out voting in the midterm elections in November.

Braun then took the stage, where he said "one of the neatest experiences of my life is spending 30 minutes riding with the president. You wouldn't believe the advice you get."

But also told the crowd he's a businessman and an outsider just like the President -- who he calls "his inspiration."

“When I started this journey, almost a year ago, I traveled the states, spent a lot of time in the north. Wanted to make sure this was going to end up with a good result,” said Braun. “Wouldn’t have done it if I wasn’t inspired by what this man did in 2016. He cleared the field systematically and really that was the inspiration for doing it.”

Braun said he will “retire Joe Donnelly.”

Trump called Donnelly "Sleeping Joe" and "a swamp person" and claimed he and Democrats will raise taxes, destroy jobs and ruin border security.

The president spoke for an hour -- touching on everything from the economy, to North Korea and immigration.

During his speech President Trump chided "fake news," saying media was needlessly afraid of him of getting America into a nuclear war. Trump said "weakness" is what will start a nuclear war.

Trump later made reference to the "fake news media back there" and pointed to the media section at the rear of the gym. The crowd responded by booing the media.

During his speech President Trump claimed African-American and Hispanic unemployment has reached "the lowest point in the history of our country."

He then said the unemployment rate for women is the lowest it has been in 18 years. Trump said all this can disappear if voters put “the wrong people” in office.

Trump revealed his new campaign slogan: "Keep America Great.”

At one point Trump pointed out Rep. Jackie Walorski, AG Curtis Hill and Sen Todd Young and the crowd cheered. Trump said Walorski has done great work in cutting regulation.

Those lawmakers flew to Michiana Thursday with Pence and Trump on Air Force One and Air Force Two.

Regarding the border, Trump said America will adopt a "merit-based system of immigration." He also talked about building a wall on the border with Mexico, saying "I'm in the construction business. That's what I do best."

Trump claimed Donnelly voted against merit-based immigration and a measure to block undocumented immigrants from getting "welfare."

Trump attacked Donnelly for opposing his tax cuts and his attempt to end the Affordable Care Act. He also criticized Donnelly for supporting the Iran nuclear deal forged by President Barack Obama. Trump withdrew from the deal this week.

Trump called Nancy Pelosi "the radical left" and said Donnelly is "the least effective lawmaker in the Senate."

Donnelly was called "a swamp person," followed by chants from the crowd of "Drain the swamp!"

Trump, at one point in the speech, claimed retailers weren't saying "Merry Christmas" when he came into office and now they are.

Touting his trade tariffs, Trump said "...we are going to start making steel and aluminum again. America is respected again!"

There were huge cheers from the crowd when Trump said, "Next week, we will finally open the American embassy in Jerusalem."

Trump wrapped up the speech saying Indiana is the state that gave us Notre Dame football, Indiana basketball and the legendary Indy 500.

"With your help this November, Indiana will inspire the American dream again...We are Americans, and our hearts bleed red, white and blue."

Reaction from those who attended

There was a packed house to hear the president, and the energy in the room was intense. WSBT 22 spoke to some of the attendees afterward.

"It makes me excited and enthusiastic for the upcoming, not only the midterm we have coming now but the 2020 election cycle,” said Joshua Wilson. “It's amazing to see what we often see on the news is the bad side of this. When I'm in here in these events like this we see every demographic."

"He had God in his speech and I loved that,” said Marc Snook. “He really cares about our country. I mean, you can feel it."

"I was really impressed with Mike Braun tonight,” said Larry Roxy. “I've never seen him that close but I was impressed by his demeanor just being one of us, average person not a politician. We need more people like that in Washington."

Sen. Donnelly reaction

Senator Joe Donnelly issued the following statement in responsed to Trump's comments during the rally:

“It's okay that the President and Vice President are here today for politics, but problems only get solved when you roll up your sleeves and put in the hard work. I'm Indiana's hired help in the Senate because I don't work for any president or any political party - I work for Hoosiers, and that will never change."

The release went on to say:

Since 2013, 41 of Joe Donnelly's legislative proposals have been signed into law, including 19 since the beginning of President Trump's Administration. In 2017, he voted with President Trump 62% of the time. Joe has traveled to all 92 counties in Indiana each of the last four years, including wrapping up a five-day, 32-stop RV tour on Monday. The Lugar Center recently named Joe the most bipartisan senator of the last quarter century still serving in office.

Lined up and waiting

People stood in line for a long time to get inside the gym.

Some got there at 4 p.m. Wednesday.

The rally was originally going to be held at Atlantic Aviation at South Bend International Airport, but the Trump Administration decided to move the rally, saying Northside Gymnasium will hold more people.

The gym has a maximum capacity of about 7,000.

Not everyone who got a ticket to the rally got to see it.

We're hearing many people were turned away at the doors because North Side Gym had reached its full capacity.

South Bend International Airport

Air Force One and Air Force Two took off and landed at South Bend International Airport.

It's custom for the president and vice president to travel seperately.

Some wondered why at least one of the jets didn't utilize Elkhart Municipal Airport.

We're told that airport is too small.

After Thursday night's rally, the president headed back to Washington and the vice president stopped in Indianapolis.


Protesting presidential visits to the area isn't something new. When Former President Barack Obama spoke at Notre Dame in 2009, there were protesters there, too.

In today's case, protest organizers say they disagree with the president's policies and that's why they were there.

Protestors slowly started gathering around 3 today.

Directly across the street Trump supporters were waiting in line to get inside of Northside Gym.

There was some interaction between the two sides.

Protestors say they disagree with the president on issues like immigration, the environment, and foreign policy.

"I'm from the 60s and we were taught to leave our world in a better place than it was when we first inherited it,” said a protestor. “I believe their policies are going to fall very short of that goal."

"Well It’s their freedom of speech to do it, so I can say they're not allowed to or it's wrong,” said a Trump supporter. “I'm actually happy that they do because it's their right to do it and of course I may not agree with it all or whatever but it's not my concern."

While there was a lot of back and forth between these two camps, for the most the protest remained peaceful.

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