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Trump Rallies In Arizona And Colorado, Thanking Vulnerable Sens. McSally And Gardner

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

President Trump will hold rallies this week in Arizona and Colorado to campaign with vulnerable Republicans. The trip is the president's longest after the Senate acquitted him on articles of impeachment earlier this month. And as NPR's Franco Ordoñez reports, the swing out west is also being seen as a victory lap by Trump to thank those who supported him during the impeachment saga.

FRANCO ORDOÑEZ, BYLINE: President Trump's trip is part of a four-state swing to boost support and raise money for the November election. On his itinerary are campaign rallies. The first is in Phoenix tonight at the same time as a Democratic debate in Las Vegas. He's in Colorado Springs tomorrow. He's thrown his support behind two vulnerable Republican senators, Cory Gardner of Colorado and Martha McSally of Arizona, who are both expected to join him on stage.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I call them friends because, you know, you develop friendships and relationships when you're in battle and war much more so than, gee, let's have a normal situation.

ORDOÑEZ: The trip is a chance to raise campaign cash and bask in the nearly unwavering loyalty from Republican members of Congress and supporters who stood by Trump during the impeachment proceedings. Democrats have targeted Gardner and McSally in a push to win back the Senate.

DAN EBERHART: She's got a real fight on her hands, and I think she absolutely needs the president's support.

ORDOÑEZ: That's Dan Eberhart, a McSally donor. He worries about the changing demographics in a state Trump won by 3 1/2 percentage points and McSally's fundraising disadvantage to Democratic challenger Mark Kelly.

EBERHART: Republicans have concerns about McSally's campaign ability that I think are valid, and I think this is why McSally needs Trump's support and really has got to run like she's behind this entire race if she's got a chance to beat Mark Kelly.

ORDOÑEZ: Former Republican Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona says McSally really has no choice but to support Trump. But he says she may pay a price for tying herself so closely to the president in a state where independent voters make up a third of the electorate.

JEFF FLAKE: If you look in the last in the midterms and before, those who've tried to run kind of as a Trump candidate didn't do well. Trump may be able to pull it off himself, but those who try to be in his shadow don't do very well.

ORDOÑEZ: But Republicans are more confident than ever of keeping the Senate after the impeachment acquittal. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pointed to signs that show conservative voters around the country are ready to support Trump who is enjoying his highest approval ratings since taking office.

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MITCH MCCONNELL: I can tell you as a poll watcher who is looking at polls in certain Senate races, every one of our people in tough races - every one of them - is in better shape today than they were before the impeachment trial started.

ORDOÑEZ: Democrats also have high hopes of ousting Cory Gardner of Colorado, a state that Hillary Clinton won by five percentage points in 2016. Gardner has also attached himself to Trump, despite not supporting him three years ago. The Colorado senator has spent much of his time since trying to prove his bona fides to conservatives who threatened a primary challenge for not supporting Trump enough. Dick Wadhams, a former Colorado GOP chairman, said Gardner can't win without first locking down the Republican base.

DICK WADHAMS: And the best way to do it is for President Trump to come to Colorado and to throw his arm around Cory and to say, I need Cory in the U.S. Senate for my second term.

ORDOÑEZ: Wadhams said this visit should erase any reluctance on the part of some Trump loyalists to support Cory Gardner. And the trip is not only a victory lap, but Trump will look to steal some of the spotlight from Democratic presidential candidates jockeying for attention. Trump will hold one more rally in Las Vegas on Friday, a day before Nevada's Democratic caucuses.

Franco Ordoñez, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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