A giant American flag, cheering crowds packed into UTC’s McKenzie Arena, signs reading “Women for Trump” and “Finish the Wall,” children wearing “Make America Great Again” t-shirts, Lee Greenwood singing “God Bless the USA”—this was the scene that greeted President Donald Trump on the evening of Sunday, November 4, as he walked onto the stage with two thumbs up, ready to rally Chattanooga crowds to vote Republican in the November 6 midterm elections.
Trump supporters were not the only ones present on that day. Outside of the stadium, where non-campaign signs were not prohibited, protesters gathered to express their displeasure with various policies and attitudes of Trump’s administration. Among those who expressed their unhappiness with the president on Sunday was Rihanna, who tweeted disapproval over her song “Don’t Stop the Music” being played at what she referred to as “one of those tragic rallies.”
Inside of the stadium, the rally occurred to boost Republican Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, who ran a close race for Senate with her Democrat opponent, Phil Bredesen. Both Trump and Vice President Mike Pence attended, and they made their uncommon joint-appearance in Chattanooga to help Blackburn win the seat in the Senate.
During the rally, Trump highlighted the successes of his administration, hit on many hot-button issues such as immigration and Justice Kavanaugh’s recent accusations of sexual assault, and portrayed Blackburn as a candidate who would stand by his side and help the Republican party.
Pence came to the podium first to open the rally with a brief speech, where he praised Blackburn as “a woman of faith and conviction.” The crowd cheered “Marsha” in response.
Soon Trump entered the stadium to raucous shouts from the crowd. Standing under banners that read “Promises Made, Promises Kept,” he spent his roughly 45-minute speech covering some issues that typically hold Republicans’ concerns. These included his promises to cut taxes for middle-class families, “stand with ICE and law enforcement,” fight against the opioid epidemic, and create more jobs in the country.
Trump also spent a significant amount of his speech time on immigration and related topics. When he talked about the funding his administration is saving to build a wall along the southern border of the United States, the crowd responded with resounding chants of “Build that wall!” that filled the arena. He claimed that illegal immigration costs the US over $100 billion annually. He highlighted the drugs that are smuggled into the country across the southern border and emphasized crimes committed by illegal immigrants.
Midway through the rally, Marsha Blackburn made an appearance on stage to address the crowds herself. She said that “Tennesseans will want a senator who will do exactly what she says she will do when she gets to Washington,” and she promised to be this senator for them.
Trump stoked the crowd by saying that when they vote “yes” for Blackburn, they are voting “no” to his past opponent Hillary Clinton and to Congresswoman Maxine Waters. While he referred to the Democratic party as the “radical resistance” that opposes the progress he has made, Trump referred to his party as “proud,” “loyal,” and ready to “win, win, win.” He urged the crowd to vote for Republicans so that “we can continue the greatest political movement in the history of our country.”
As Trump wrapped up his speech, he said, “I am asking every citizen from every party, every background, and every race, color, and creed, to reject the Democrat politics of anger and division and to unite behind our proud and righteous destiny as Americans.”
Trump’s visit to Chattanooga came just two days before the November 6 midterm elections, which in many states—Tennessee included—held tight races between Democrat and Republican candidates.
Polls varied up until Election Day, some saying that Tennessee Senate candidates Blackburn and Bredesen were tied, and some giving Blackburn the lead, according to the Chattanooga Times Free Press. The Tennessean stated that the Blackburn-Bredesen race became the most expensive Senate race in Tennessee history, reflecting on its intensity and closeness.
Trump hoped that his visit to Chattanooga would secure another Republican seat in the Senate, and on November 6, Blackburn won the Tennessee Senate race. As reported by the Associated Press, Bredesen received 43.9 percent of the votes, and Blackburn won with 54.7 percent, making her the first female senator of Tennessee.