EVANSVILLE — Brian Stevens wasn’t sure what to make of President Donald Trump in 2016.

More than two years later, Stevens has formed an opinion of the 45th U.S. President.

“Initially I was skeptical, and I have been converted in the last year,” Stevens, 47, of Huntingburg, Ind., said Thursday as he waited to see Trump at the Ford Center in Evansville. “He actually follows through with what he says he’s going to do.”

Thousands stood in a line that wrapped around the arena for blocks ahead of Trump’s “Make America Great Again” rally, which is a pivotal appearance for U.S. Senate candidate and Republican Mike Braun in his dogfight against Democrat Joe Donnelly in the midterms.

Make no mistake: Trump was the star, with rally-goers wrapping themselves in Make America Great Again flags and showing raucous energy despite the suffering Evansville heat. This is the 10th rally that Trump has held in Indiana, and the second rally in Evansville, since he first began his race for president in June, 2015.

Trump in Evansville 2

Thousands of people gathered outside the Ford Center in Evansville for President Donald Trump's Make America Great Again rally on Thursday. 

“What I appreciate the most is his personality is a lot like mine,” said 52-year-old Traci Honaker of Terre Haute, who owns her own cleaning business. “We’re both take-charge people and we’re straight up and real. That’s what I love most about him – his realness and his compassion and his love for the people.”

Not everyone was feeling that love. Take for example, Mike Oles, an Indianapolis-based field director for Good Jobs Nation, a Washington, D.C.-based group organizing workers against Trump. Oles’s group included just over a dozen people from Kansas City, Elkhart, South Bend and Youngstown, Oh. – a tiny majority in a sea of Trump supporters.

“We’re here today to hold President Trump accountable,” Oles said. “He made some pretty strong claims that he was going to fight for workers, that he was going to fight for good jobs, good wages. Eighteen months into his presidency, Labor Day 2018, he has failed to live up to those promises.”

Jennifer Douglas, 68, of Evansville, was one of around 40 other protesters voicing their opposition to the President on Thursday. Douglas said she takes issue with Trump's "lack of integrity and his competency to hold the office." But what really concerns her, she said, is how the President views people different from himself.

"... he doesn't seem to like people that are different from him, whether it's the female sex or whether it's people of other colors or whether it's people that are less wealthy than him," Douglas said. "And I have a problem with that because as the leader of our country he should be bringing us all together and he's supposed to be everyone's President."

Julie Miller, 48, Paris, Ill. – a friend of Honaker’s — painted a different picture of Trump.

“What I love about him is he’s a patriot, he’s for everybody,” Miller said. “Even the people who think he’s not for them he is for them. He is for all Americans.”

“They just don’t know it,” Honaker said.

Said Miller: “They don’t know the truth.”

Inside the Ford Center, Ind. Gov. Eric Holcomb welcomed Trump's supporters and touted Indiana' success, citing safety and a healthy economy. He rattled off names of Hoosiers serving in Washington, like Vice President Mike Pence, and proposed putting another Hoosier in the nation's capital.

"There's one more person we need in D.C.," he said. "We need to elect our next United States Senator: Mike Braun."


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