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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

President Trump Rallies Supporters In Great Falls

President Trump at his Great Falls, MT campagin rally, July 5, 2018.
Corin Cates-Carney
President Trump at his Great Falls, MT campagin rally, July 5, 2018.

President Donald Trump stumped in Great Falls Thursday afternoon hitting on the highlights of his first year and half in office and, once in a while, railing against Montana Democratic Senator Jon Tester.

There were lots of thumbs ups, ‘Make America Great Again’ hats, shirts, and banners. The occasional Q-anon reference, and other signs or gear reading ‘Drain The Swamp’, ‘Trump - Pence’, ‘Women For Trump’ and, in preparation for the run in 2020, ‘Keep America Great.’

Before Trump took the stage in the Four Seasons arena, local Republican heavyweights warmed up the crowd of around 6,600, packed in the stadium seats.

Among them, Republican Attorney General Tim Fox.

“Are you excited to see our president? Absolutely!”

After repeatedly calling the rally-goers to thank President Trump, Fox, like the state Republican party chair and the Republican Secretary of State who spoke before him, laid into an attack on Tester.

“He voted against Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation.”

Tester is considered vulnerable in his reelection bid coming up in November. Trump first hinted he’d campaign against Tester in Montana after Tester played a role in knocking off the president's pick to lead the Veterans Administration, Ronny Jackson.

And now that Tester has an opponent for his Senate seat, in Republican Matt Rosendale, Trump’s grudge has a political counterweight to lean into.  

“The person that we are here for tonight, a very special person who ran an incredible primary, he’s going to be your next senator from the incredible state of Montana," Trump said. "Come up Matt, Come up Matt.”

At the president’s call, Matt Rosendale, the current state auditor, stepped up to the podium, his striped red and silver tie pairing with the president's customary solid red. 

He didn’t say anything he hadn’t said before. But this time, Rosendale said it with the president at his back.

President Donald Trump and then Republican Senate candidate Matt Rosendale on stage during a July 5, 2018 rally in Great Falls, MT.
Credit Corin Cates-Carney
Montana Public Radio
President Donald Trump and Republican Senate candidate Matt Rosendale on stage during a July 5, 2018 rally in Great Falls, MT.

“I will fight for you every day because I mean business about standing with President Trump to make America great again," Rosendale said. "Because what's good for America is great for Montana. Today, I ask for your vote so I can help President Trump continue his good work.”

The locals’ remarks were brief. The crowd was not waving signs or buying merchandise with their names printed in bold lettering on it.

This was Trump’s show. He hit Tester on not supporting the tax cuts passed by the GOP, and for opposing the travel ban of people from predominantly Muslim countries. Trump talked about Ronny Jackson, his VA pick, who withdrew his nomination after Tester released colleagues’ allegations that he drank on the job and was loose with prescriptions.

Then Trump turned to red-meat war stories of his campaign and presidency. He talked about Hillary Clinton. The crowd chanted "lock her up."

Trump riffed on his distaste for political correctness and, pointing to the press box, complained  about how the media unfairly treats him and his supporters. Whatever line he tossed into the crowd got eaten.

“Instead of apologizing for America we are standing up for America," Trump said. "And we are standing up for our great American flag. How about the NFL? I don’t want to cause controversy …”

After speaking for a little more than an hour and a half, Trump signed off with a final chant of "Make America Great Again." Then he lingered. He waved and pointed into the crowd. He shook hands with a couple people in the front row and as he walked out of the stadium raised his right fist into the air.

Before any of that, thousands of people, including Ursula Wilson from Butte, lined up for more than a mile to get in to see Trump. 

A crowd gathers in Great Falls, MT ahead of President Trump's campaign rally, July 5, 2018.
Credit Corin Cates-Carney
A crowd gathers in Great Falls, MT ahead of President Trump's campaign rally, July 5, 2018.

"I’m glad Trump got in," Wilson says. "I’m glad he is doing what he can. He needs more support from his party also, besides the average everyday American. We’re just trying to do what's right for America, keeping it strong healthy and free. It’s great. It’s just like family. You talk to people who aren’t even from your city, and everyone's got the same spirit to keep America going.”

Trump was the main draw for the crowd, and like many others at the rally, Wilson didn’t know much about who Trump was strumping for, Matt Rosendale.

“Um, well he’s following Trump’s theme.”

As Rosendale tries to unseat two-term Senator Jon Tester his earliest rallying cry had little to do with himself.

Corin Cates-Carney manages MTPR’s daily and long-term news projects. After spending more than five years living and reporting across Western and Central Montana, he became news director in early 2020.
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