It’s a unique opportunity in northeast Indiana to see a sitting president in person, so local residents are planning to take advantage of the opportunity.
President Donald Trump will host a rally at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum Monday at 6:30 p.m. Tickets for the event, which are free, became available online last Monday night. Area residents will be making the short drive to Fort Wayne to see the president in action.
He’s the first sitting president to visit Fort Wayne since Ronald Reagan. Trump did rally at the Coliseum in May 2016, when he was a candidate for president.
Indiana’s 3rd District Rep. Jim Banks, R-Columbia City, said he expects a big crowd in Fort Wayne for the event. Northeast Indiana is friendly territory for Trump, which may be one reason the president is stopping here to rally voters the day before the midterm election.
“It doesn’t matter what president it is, to have any president visit the area is a great opportunity for our region,” Banks said. “But for this president to come, he’s very popular in northeast Indiana. I imagine it’s a pretty significant crowd and he’ll receive a very warm welcome, and I think it will significantly boost Republican turnout in the region, which is what it’s designed to do.”
So what to expect at the rally? Trump almost will certainly spend time talking up Republican Senate candidate Mike Braun, who is neck-in-neck with incumbent Democrat Sen. Joe Donnelly for the seat. Banks wasn’t sure whether the president would take a minute to boost his campaign, too, or call him up the stage. He’s facing a challenge from Democrat Courtney Tritch for the House seat.
Beyond that, it’s nearly impossible to predict what Trump will talk about.
“You never know, that’s part of the appeal of hearing him speak. I’ve certainly had the opportunity to hear him speak a number of times now, it’s always a lot more interesting when he drifts off the script. I imagine we can expect some of his remarks will be unscripted,” Banks said.
Although Banks likely will get some praise from Trump in Fort Wayne, the campaign of his Democratic opponent, Courtney Tritch, said the rally shows the incumbent is just another party man.
“The GOP establishment recognizes the powerful movement and grassroots support behind Courtney’s campaign. Throughout this election, Rep. Banks has campaigned with party leader after party leader, while our campaign has never been about how closely we can align with the needs of a party,” Tritch campaign manager David Myles said. “Instead, we’ve focused on how closely we can align with the needs of the district, discussing the issues that matter most to voters like affordable health care, strong public schools, and high-wage jobs.”
Residents in the area are taking advantage of the opportunity and making a family affair out of Monday’s event.
Jodi Brayton of Kendallville will be attending the rally and is taking two 18-year-olds and one 17-year-old with her. While she’s looking forward to maybe hearing the president talk about health care, immigration and taxes, the kids aren’t Trump fans but still agreed to go for the experience.
“I am proud of them for going with me. Many people refuse to hear the opposing party’s opinion,” Brayton said. “I think it is important for them to listen to what the president has to say, and then we can discuss it. Discussion of opposing opinions is not something we are seeing these days. People can’t just talk about it and agree to disagree.”
Seeing a sitting president is a rare opportunity and experiencing the rally firsthand will give a full picture of the president instead of the sound bites that pop up in the news or on social media.
“The kids today get all their news from social media, bits and clips of what was said or done. I’d like them to hear the whole story from start to finish and see that there is more to the story that what they sometimes see on social media,” Brayton said.
Rod Stayner of Albion has never seen a president in person and, as a fan of Trump, he isn’t going to pass up the opportunity to see the rally.
Stayner’s wife, oldest daughter and his mother all are planning to attend the rally together to hear the president.
“I am a conservative and wanted to see President Trump in person since he is this close,” Stayner said. “Having watched several of his rallies on TV, I expect a lot of the same points about how important it is to vote Republican. I expect he will promote Mike Braun quite a lot.”
Trump will be stopping in northeast Indiana after a rally earlier in the day in Cleveland, Ohio, then will be leaving the city to head to an evening event in Missouri.
KPC Media Group will be covering the rally Monday evening. For live updates, follow News Sun Editor Steve Garbacz on Twitter @SteveGKPC, or follow the KPC News Facebook page at facebook.com/kpcnews.