SOUTHPORT, Ind. — Bob Knight walked out onto the stage Friday evening to raucous applause.
The iconic former IU basketball coach only spoke for few minutes at President Trump's rally, comparing the current leader to former President Harry Truman and starting a “Go get ‘em, Donald” chant. He saluted the president and crowd. Then he exited the room.
The president’s rally in the Southport High School Fieldhouse drew a mass of red “Make America Great Again” hat-clad supporters to the small city south of downtown Indianapolis.
Four days out from Election Day, the Friday evening rally was also intended to be an opportunity for Republican Senate candidate Mike Braun to galvanize his voter base, although the former state legislator and Jasper, Indiana businessman only spoke for about three minutes. He criticized his opponent, incumbent Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly, without mentioning any specific qualities other than saying the senator is ineffective.
Much of the president’s rally rhetoric was geared toward framing Democrats as open border-supporting, criminal-friendly politicians. However, Donnelly voted in favor of border wall funding.
Trump also spoke about the group of migrants traveling to the southern U.S. border to request asylum and accused members of the caravan of having criminal records.
“The Democrats want to invite caravan after caravan,” Trump said.
Vice President Pence, back in his Hoosier home state for the event, touted the president deploying active-duty military to the border to keep the caravan migrants from crossing over. The crowd erupted in cheers and applause.
The rally was the second official appearance after another in West Virginia earlier in the day and first of two events in Indiana headlined by the president before Election Day. Trump will also speak to supporters this coming Monday in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
The president’s two campaign stops bookend the appearance of his predecessor, former President Barack Obama, who is scheduled to speak at a Sunday afternoon rally for Donnelly. When Trump mentioned this, the crowd booed.
Trump also repeated his usual attacks on the news media, claiming TV cameras did not want to show the size of the crowd in the room. The crowd jeered toward the media area.The field house is one of the biggest high school gyms in the state, and fits over 7,000 people. It was almost full Friday.
Even two hours before Trump was scheduled to take the stage, a brief “CNN sucks” chant enveloped the field house.
The rally also featured remarks by candidates for Indiana’s 4th and 6th Districts, Jim Baird and Greg Pence, respectively. The latter is the brother of the vice president.
Most speakers Friday returned the Republican success of getting Justice Brett Kavanaugh confirmed to the Supreme Court. Kavanaugh’s nomination was clouded by allegations of sexual misconduct, and Indiana’s senators voted differently. Donnelly voted against the confirmation, while Republican Sen. Todd Young voted for it.
“Joe sided with the search-and-destroy tactics of the Democrats in the Senate,” the vice president said.
Donnelly, in a statement released after the rally, touted his moderate record of voting in line with the president 62 percent of the time. He said as a bipartisan legislator he welcomed Pence and Trump back to the state.
“I hope President Trump will return next year so that I can welcome him back to Indiana after I'm re-elected on Tuesday," Donnelly said.
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