President Donald Trump swung through the St. Louis area on Wednesday to provide a financial boost for GOP U.S. Senate hopeful Josh Hawley.
The visit comes as Hawley is viewing Trump as an asset in his bid to oust U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill.
Hawley greeted Trump, and a large crowd of supporters, when he landed at St. Louis Lambert International Airport on Wednesday afternoon. Trump arrived about 10 minutes early and spent part of that extra time mingling with supporters — who were cordoned off and kept away from the press.
Of the roughly 200 members of the crowd, some were area Republican activists — including St. Louis County Republican committeewoman Jennifer Bird. She said she thanked Trump for everything he has done so far during his tenure as president.
The president then got into his limousine and headed out to Boeing Co's regional headquarters, which is located just north of the airport. He participated in a roundtable discussion there regarding recently enacted federal tax cuts.
Watch a recorded stream of the roundtable here:
One of the people who joined Trump in this discussion was Missouri Chamber of Commerce CEO Dan Mehan, who said in a statement that Missouri businesses have responded to the tax cuts in an “extremely positive manner.”
Trump arrived shortly after 4 p.m. at Hawley’s fundraiser at the Frontenac Hilton. A group of nearly 20 — some carrying signs in support of students in Parkland, Florida — were outside the hotel when the president arrived.
A smaller group of Trump supporters also showed up, two waving a large Trump banner.
The president left the fundraiser at about 5:30 p.m. and headed back to Lambert, where Air Force One flew him back to Washington.
There have been estimates that the president may raise $2 million for Hawley at Wednesday's event. But a large portion of that amount won't go to Hawley's campaign directly, because of campaign donation limits. Instead, some of the money will go to the Missouri Republican Party or other GOP entities.
Some of the donors have been encouraged to contribute at least $50,000. The most Hawley can take from an individual is $5,400 for the entire election cycle.
During a campaign stop in west St. Louis County on Tuesday, Hawley told reporters that he was “delighted” to have Trump’s support. He added that he hoped the president visits Missouri “often” during this year’s campaign season. His campaign emailed a fundraising appeal on Wednesday stating "President Trump knows better than anyone that Washington needs change, and that D.C. insiders are not the answer."
Back in 2016, Trump won Missouri’s electoral votes by a landslide — thanks to big margins in the state’s rural and exurban counties. While Trump’s national approval ratings have hovered around 40 percent, Hawley is banking on the GOP president being popular enough in November to deprive McCaskill of a third term. Recent polls in the state have shown Trump to remain extremely popular among rank-and-file Missouri Republicans.
McCaskill’s campaign put out a statement on Wednesday morning decrying an ad buy from the third-party group Americans for Prosperity. That ad criticizes McCaskill for voting against the tax overhaul, which her campaign called “a windfall for corporations and drug companies.”
“It's disgraceful,” said McCaskill spokeswoman Meira Bernstein. “And no amount of dark money from Josh Hawley's out-of-state billionaire donors — who personally stand to gain at least $1 billion each year from this bill — will stop Claire from speaking out about it."
Hawley needs to get through a 10-way GOP primary before taking on McCaskill, who is facing six Democratic opponents. While at least two Republican Senate contenders, Austin Petersen and Tony Monetti, have raised more $200,000 thus far, Hawley has taken in more than $1.7 million and has $1.2 million of cash on hand. McCaskill’s campaign has roughly $9.1 million in the bank.
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