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Trump could visit Illinois next week in midterm push

Trump speaking at U.S. Steel Corp. mill in Granite City

Donald Trump visited Granite City in southern Illinois in July. | Neil Steinberg/Sun-Times

President Donald Trump could make an appearance in the southern Illinois city of Carbondale in the waning days of the 2018 midterm campaign, according to an email circulated to city officials downstate.

The potential visit on Oct. 27 would put Trump in one of the country’s most competitive congressional districts less than two weeks before Illinois voters go to the polls, potentially providing a boost for Republican congressman Mike Bost and a conundrum for Gov Bruce Rauner.

The email, which was first published Friday morning by the Daily Egyptian and the Southern Illinoisan, emphasizes that plans for a Trump visit were preliminary and subject to change based on the unpredictable presidential schedule.

The email said that Carbondale officials thought there was “a decent chance” the event would go forward based on initial conversations with the Secret Service and that they considered it even “more likely” based on another conversation Thursday.

The email was sent by City Manager Gary Williams to members of the Carbondale City Council. According to the email, Carbondale’s police department had been contacted by the Secret Service Monday to begin preparations for a possible visit.

The email speculates that the president might be appearing on behalf of Bost, who is engaged in a tight race for re-election against his Democratic opponent, St. Claire County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelley. A New York Times Upshot-Sienna College poll in September put Bost just one point ahead of Kelly, well within the margin of error.

“We have nothing to confirm at this point,” Bost press secretary George O’Connor said. “It’s local officials responding to rumors and hearsay.”

Trump has been barnstorming the country in support of Republican congressional candidates in recent weeks. The last event listed on the Trump campaign website is a rally on Oct. 26 in Charlotte, N.C. in support of another embattled House republican. The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment about a presidential visit to Carbondale.

A spokeswoman for Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, which the email says may provide a venue for the event, also declined to comment about whether an event was in the offing.

“We don’t have confirmation of a visit,” SIUC spokesperson Rae Goldsmith said.

Carbondale City Council member Adam Loos confirmed that he had received the email — and was not happy about it.

“Revulsion. My reaction was revulsion, and also shock,” Loos said.

“I thought it was mystifying that he’d come down [to Carbondale] to help Mike Bost” based on the level of opposition to Trump in the city, Loos added.

Carbondale’s Jackson County was one of five downstate counties to go for Hillary Clinton in 2016, and no Carbondale precinct gave Trump more than 40 percent of the vote. Loos predicted an icy reception, at least among city residents. Residents had begun to discuss potential protests, Loos said.

Loos drafted a City Council resolution against Trump’s visit, which he decided not to advance after two other council members who had expressed interest in supporting it backed out. Among other things, Loos’ “Resolution Declaring Donald J. Trump Unwelcome and Persona Non Grata in the City of Carbondale, Illinois” would have banned any city spending on the visit that was not legally required.

“To me, any amount is too much. If we spend a nickel it’s too much to bring that man to town with his hateful band of violent bullies,” Loos said.

Donald Trump last visited Illinois in July to mark the reopening of a steel mill in Granite City near St. Louis.

Bruce Rauner avoided the rally, telling reporters beforehand that he was unsure of the date on which it was being held. Unlike Bost, Rauner is running statewide, and a Morning Consult poll conducted in October put Trump’s and a Morning Consult poll conducted in September found 59 percent of Illinois residents disapproved of the president. Only 37 percent approved.

The Pritzker campaign used the prospect of another Trump visit to needle Rauner about his relationship with the governor.

“Bruce Rauner has spent the final months and weeks of his failing campaign cozying up to Donald Trump and taking a page out of his divisive playbook. Will Rauner fully embrace or run scared of Trump when he campaigns for Republicans in Illinois?” Pritzker campaign spokesman Jason Rubin said in a press release.

The Rauner campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.