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Crowd at Trump rally for midterm elections supports president, not Republican Party

U.S. President Donald Trump delivers a speech at a rally held in Evansville, Indiana, on Aug. 30, 2018, for a Republican candidate in the U.S. midterm election. (Mainichi/ Kota Takamoto)

EVANSVILLE, Indiana -- Midterm elections for the U.S. Congress scheduled for Nov. 6 serve as a confidence vote for President Donald Trump who has been in office since January 2017.

The key point of contention in the congressional elections, which will be held while the United States is enjoying steady economic growth, is the political style of President Trump.

Those supporting Trump have formed a third bloc in the U.S. political world, which had traditionally been characterized by a tug of war between Republicans and Democrats.

Trump is already stumping in many states in a desperate bid to lead the ruling Republican Party to win the congressional election to bolster his power base.

In the early afternoon on a late August day, a large number of people gathered around a multipurpose arena in Evansville, in the Midwestern state of Indiana, where Trump was scheduled to hold a rally the following day for a Republican candidate in the election.

Sharon Anderson, 62, a former school worker, took six hours to travel to the city from Tennessee in southern U.S. in a car driven by her daughter. This was the fifth time that she had attended such a rally.

Anderson said she is filled with a sense of adulation and feels invigorated whenever she listens to Trump's speeches. "It's so uplifting, exhilarating and very informative, too," she said.

By around noon on the day of Trump's speech, some 3,000 people had lined up in front of the site. "Don't Stop Believin,'" a 1981 hit song, was played outside the venue, while people wearing red baseball caps chanted "USA, USA."

The gathering of such a large number of people prompted nearby schools to cancel classes on that day. A record 11,500 people gathered at the arena for the Trump rally, and a local newspaper reported that the Trump visit "brought the circus to Evansville."

In his speech, Trump criticized the Democratic Party. "The Democrats, they call themselves the resistance. That's what they're good at, resisting and obstructing. They are obstructionists. Every day, they are resisting the will of the American people and trying to undermine the verdict of our democracy, delivered so strongly in 2016, like never before delivered," Trump said in reference to his own election victory with a furious look.

The president added that U.S. voters clearly dismissed the principle of international cooperation that caused wealth to flow out of the country.

"The so-called resistance is mad because their ideas have been rejected by the American people. And we're really -- we're getting rid of those bad ideas one by one, so fast. And it is driving them crazy," he said. "They're the old and corrupt, globalist, ruling class that squandered trillions of dollars on foreign adventures."

The audience raised their fists to express their support for the president.

Most of these individuals are white working-class people who were instrumental in sweeping Trump to power two years ago. In Indiana, Trump scored a landslide victory in the presidential election by garnering about 57 percent of all votes.

While emphasizing his government's achievements such as drastic tax cuts and tightening border security, President Trump also devoted much of his speech time to criticizing Democrats, elites in society, China and other forces that hinder the implementation of his policies.

His speech was booed as frequently as cheered. Trump's tactic of using words that clearly differentiate between friend and foe to inspire a feeling of fellowship among his audience has not changed since his campaign for the presidential election.

A news program produced by Trump's camp was being shown outside the venue. Lara Trump, a daughter-in-law of the president and a former newscaster, reported the president's achievements of the past week. The title of the program is "Real News" to counter major media outlets, which Trump criticizes as reporting "fake news."

Since he was sworn in, the approval ratings for President Trump have been hovering around 40 percent, the lowest level for a U.S. president in their first term in the postwar period. Still, the figures have held firm without plummeting. This is largely attributable to the country's relatively good economic performance. The unemployment rate in the U.S. fell to the 3 percent level this spring -- for the first time in 17 years.

Many of Trump's supporters praise his controversial policy measures -- such as the U.S. withdrawing from multilateral frameworks and scrapping environmental restrictions that are being criticized by the international community and those with vested interests -- as proof that he is carrying out his pledges.

Trump keeps an eye to re-election in the 2020 presidential race by defending his "bedrock" layer of supporters.

A high-ranking official of the White House told reporters in late August that the president will support Republican Party candidates in the midterm elections more than ever.

However, Trump is scheduled to mainly stump around states where he won in the presidential election, such as Texas and Wisconsin, over the next two months.

Still, it remains to be seen whether the strong support shown to President Trump will lead to votes for Republican candidates in the congressional election.

An opinion poll conducted jointly by ABC TV and The Washington Post from Aug. 26 to 29 shows that 52 percent of the pollees will vote for Democrats, far above the 38 percent who intend to cast their ballots for Republicans.

Nobody who attended the rally in Evansville was seen wearing caps or clothes bearing the name of a Republican candidate, whom the president asked the audience to vote for.

Phill Coldwell , 33, who were selling Trump goods inside a tent set up outside the venue, said those who gathered in Evansville on that day had come to the city to cheer Trump, not the Republican Party.

"You'll be surprised how many of these folks come up and tell me that they had been Dems all their lives and, for the first time, voted for a Republican candidate in the last election," said Coldwell. "They are not here to support the Republican Party. They are here for Trump."

(Japanese original by Kota Takamoto, North America General Bureau)

This is Part 1 of a series.

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