LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Republican Gov. Matt Bevin basked Monday in the campaign finale he wanted — an election-eve appearance with President Donald Trump just hours before Kentucky voters choose between him and Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear.
President Donald Trump’s rally is expected to begin at 7:00 p.m. ET. Watch live in our player above.
The Monday evening rally at Rupp Arena in Lexington will reinforce one of Bevin’s main themes throughout the bitter campaign — his alliance with Trump, whose popularity eclipses the governor’s in the bluegrass state.
Trump tweeted support for Bevin Monday morning, saying he “has worked really hard & done a GREAT job.” Thousands of people, many wearing Trump shirts and hats, gathered inside Rupp Arena hours before the rally.
Beshear, meanwhile, spent the day campaigning in western Kentucky. The presidential rally didn’t throw Beshear off his strategy of making the race about state issues.
The challenger stuck to his themes of improving public schools, creating better-paying jobs and protecting health care and public pensions. Beshear planned to finish the day with an evening rally in Louisville, a Democratic stronghold where he needs a big turnout.
“People try to distract us with national issues and get us thinking about things other than our well-being,” Beshear said in a Monday radio interview on WKDZ. “Our families should be doing so much better. And I’m going to make sure they do.”
The bitter Kentucky contest is being watched closely for early signs of how the increasingly partisan impeachment furor in Washington might impact Trump and other Republican incumbents in 2020. Among those with an especially keen interest: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who’s on the ballot himself next year in Kentucky.
A few hours before the Trump rally, Bevin arrived to loud cheers in Rupp Arena. The Republican incumbent sounded confident about his prospects for a second term and said the president’s election-eve appearance would give him a boost.
“I think we’re going to win, regardless,” the governor told reporters. “I think we’ll win even more, with this kind of wind in our sails.”
In the campaign’s closing days, Beshear downplayed the spillover effect from Trump’s rally into voting the next day across the bluegrass state.
“This race isn’t about what’s going on in the White House, it’s about what’s going on in each and every home across Kentucky,” Beshear said in an interview last week. “And our voters know that a governor can’t impact federal-type issues.”
Bevin tried to link himself to Trump’s popularity among Kentuckians in ads, tweets and speeches throughout the campaign. It was part of his strategy to nationalize the race and rev up his conservative base. The governor called for a crackdown on illegal immigration and a ban on “sanctuary cities.” He denounced the impeachment probe of Trump. Bevin promoted his conservative credentials by touting his opposition to abortion and support for gun rights.
The election will settle a grudge match between Bevin and Beshear that spanned their terms in office. Wielding his authority as the state’s top lawyer, Beshear filed a series of lawsuits challenging Bevin’s executive actions to make wholesale changes to boards and commissions and sought to block Bevin-backed pension and education initiatives. In the highest-profile case, a Beshear lawsuit led Kentucky’s Supreme Court to strike down a Bevin-supported pension law on procedural grounds last year.