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President Trump Has Full Month Of Campaigning As Midterms Approach


President Trump has a full slate of campaign stops this month. In a bid to limit Democrats' gains in the midterm elections, he goes this week to Montana, Arizona and Nevada. Over the weekend, it was Kentucky and Ohio. NPR's Don Gonyea caught up with the president outside Cincinnati in a congressional district once considered safe for Republicans.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: The open-air pavilion at the Warren County Fairgrounds in a solidly Republican part of this state had the buzz of a sporting event on Friday night.


UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: President Donald J. Trump.

GONYEA: The president called it a historic week. A new report put unemployment at its lowest rate in 50 years. He also hit hard what's now a go-to issue for Republicans - the confirmation battle of Justice Brett Kavanaugh.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Did he get treated badly and unfairly or what?


TRUMP: Horrible.

GONYEA: Recent polling has shown that a big enthusiasm advantage that Democrats held over Republican voters shrank dramatically after the Kavanaugh hearing. The president wants to keep that going.


TRUMP: We are more energized as Republicans than ever - I think ever before.

GONYEA: Trump was in Ohio's 1st Congressional District, home of longtime GOP Congressman Steve Chabot. This is a district Trump carried by seven points. Chabot won two years ago by 18. Normally it would be safe GOP. But polls show Democratic challenger Aftab Pureval running a closer-than-expected race. And Congressman Chabot, who was slow to get behind Trump as a presidential candidate in 2016, is now accepting the president's help even if it's not clear if it will help him or hurt him. Chabot took the stage 30 minutes into Trump's rally Friday.


STEVE CHABOT: God bless you all. And God bless President Trump.


GONYEA: But his appearance was brief. Chabot spoke for barely a minute. He made no direct pitch for votes, instead leaving that to the president. Around the district, there was excitement about Trump's presence. Forty-one-year-old Consuela Green works as a secretary for a local business. She supports Trump and says her vote next month will be cast in response to what she says was the Democrats' appalling treatment of Judge Kavanaugh.

CONSUELA GREEN: I would say that was the driving factor.

GONYEA: Green's party affiliation is independent. The last Democratic president she voted for was Bill Clinton, but she says she sometimes votes for Democrats for local office.

GREEN: I'm normally not a Republican or Democrat. But I'm going Republican this time.

GONYEA: Outside money has been pouring into the district. The super PAC backing House Republicans has spent more than $2 million running attack ads and phone banking and knocking on doors. Still, in the most recent quarter available, Democrat Aftab Pureval significantly outraised Chabot. He's getting help from high-profile surrogates like Congressman John Lewis, a veteran of civil rights struggles who spoke at a black church in Cincinnati yesterday.


JOHN LEWIS: You know, I gave a little blood for the right to vote, almost died on that bridge in Selma. I'm not going to stand by and see the people take the vote from us. We have to use it. If we fail to use it, we will lose it.

GONYEA: In the audience was Ennis Tait, who's a pastor at another Cincinnati church. On President Trump's visit, he said this.

ENNIS TAIT: I think it's always respectful to respect our president.

GONYEA: But Tait says he was troubled by the tone of the president's remarks.

TAIT: It broke my heart to see that he used his campaign strategy to further divide people. I mean, you're already in the office. Don't take them into a zone where you have to create division or further divide us more than we've been.

GONYEA: Ohio's 1st District will be one of the most closely watched in three weeks. It'll offer clues as to the president's ongoing strength when his name is not on the ballot in a place where he won easily less than two years ago. Don Gonyea, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF NATE SMITH'S "BOUNCE: PTS I + II") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

You're most likely to find NPR's Don Gonyea on the road, in some battleground state looking for voters to sit with him at the local lunch spot, the VFW or union hall, at a campaign rally, or at their kitchen tables to tell him what's on their minds. Through countless such conversations over the course of the year, he gets a ground-level view of American elections. Gonyea is NPR's National Political Correspondent, a position he has held since 2010. His reports can be heard on all NPR News programs and at NPR.org. To hear his sound-rich stories is akin to riding in the passenger seat of his rental car, traveling through Iowa or South Carolina or Michigan or wherever, right along with him.

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