President Donald Trump touched on familiar themes as he rallied support for Republican candidates before a packed Landers Center crowd estimated at about 12,000 Tuesday evening.
The President in particular spoke in defense of his nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh, and went a bit on the offensive in speaking about the woman who has accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault more than 30 years ago, Christine Blasey Ford.
"Guilty until proven innocent," Trump said. "That's very dangerous for our country."
He went on to provide his version of Ford's recollection of the purported incident.
"Thirty-six years ago, I had a beer," Trump said as if to relate the questioning of Ford. "'How did you get home?' 'I don't remember.' 'How did you get there?' 'I don't remember.' 'Where is the place?' 'I don't remember.' 'I don't know.' 'But I had one beer,'" Trump said to raucous cheers and applause.
Ford has accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault and testified to the same before the Senate confirmation hearings for Trump's selection for the high court. In response, Kavanaugh has strongly refuted all of the allegations.
An FBI investigation on the matter was expected to be finished Wednesday before the divided committee would vote on Kavanaugh's nomination and, if approved, send it to the Senate for a final vote.
While the President spent much of his time on Kavanaugh, while relating the administration's successes and the Democratic party's efforts at obstructionism, the main reason for his arrival in Southaven Tuesday was to offer his support for Mississippi U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith, who he called "a true Mississippi patriot."
A divided special election campaign is underway with Hyde-Smith being challenged by state Sen. Chris McDaniel, former Secretary of Agriculture in the Clinton administration Mike Espy and Tobey Bartee, a relative unknown from Gautier.
Hyde-Smith, the woman appointed by Gov. Phil Bryant to fill the seat held by Thad Cochran before he retired earlier in the year, is now running to continue in the position until 2021, when Cochran's term would end.
The election is listed as nonpartisan, although Hyde-Smith and McDaniel have aligned themselves as Republicans, while Espy and Bartee are both Democrats.
"I'm honored to work with this man," Hyde-Smith said of Trump. "We've got a lot of work to do and this man is leading the charge. We're going back to Washington because we've got a Supreme Court justice to get nominated."
McDaniel's name was never mentioned during the evening, although people wearing McDaniel shirts could be seen in the audience and a McDaniel bus greeted those entering the Landers Center area from Pepper Chase Drive.
Republicans supporting Hyde-Smith hope Trump's appearance in DeSoto County can help tip the scales in her favor. That's because the county was strongly backing McDaniel in his challenge to Cochran in 2014 and still has a vocal base of support in North Mississippi.
In his hour-long address, Trump reeled off a litany of Republican successes and Democratic efforts to destroy his agenda, from the Kavanaugh nomination to the administration's efforts to dismantle Obamacare and stop cities from becoming "sanctuary cities" for illegal immigrants. Trump noted low unemployment rates for African-Americans, Latin Americans and Asian Americans, along with women, which he said enjoyed the lowest jobless figures on record.
But, urging the party base to back Republican candidates in November was of utmost importance, Trump said, noting the November vote indirectly becomes a referendum of his efforts.
"I want to do what's right for this country," the President said. "That's why you must vote Republican on Election Day. They say Donald Trump isn't running. I am on the ticket. Our country is going so well. It's fun because we are achieving our goals. I'm having fun because nobody would have ever believed we've accomplished what we've done."
Bob Bakken is Staff Writer for the DeSoto Times-Tribune.