STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
When President Trump campaigns for Republicans in this fall's election, he is campaigning against history. Midterm elections usually, though not always, go against the party in the White House. Surveys also show Democrats are much more enthusiastic this year than Republicans. And that explains the president's message to Republicans last night in Las Vegas. In effect, he said, act enthused.
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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Promise me, you've got to get out for the mid - don't be complacent. You've got to get out for the midterms.
INSKEEP: Tonight, the president stops in Springfield, Mo., which is where NPR's Don Gonyea is.
DON GONYEA, BYLINE: The southwest part of Missouri where Trump will speak tonight is a stronghold for the president. It is also a pretty good spot for vendors selling Trump merchandise.
JEREMY BOYTS: So we've got hats, buttons and T-shirts as well as flags. The new stuff is going to be your 2020 keep America great. How's it going, bud?
GONYEA: That's Jeremy Boyts. He's a former financial adviser who now does this full-time - traveling around to Trump rallies. But this happens to be his hometown. He's set up in the parking lot of an outdoor shopping center. Boyts is a big Trump supporter, but acknowledges that Trump doesn't always make it easy for people to like him.
BOYTS: I personally am pleased with the outcomes that I've seen so far. Are there things that other people have valid arguments on, you know, that he's not articulate, that he's not very suave and debonair? Yeah, he's not.
GONYEA: Boyts thinks it's good Trump is here to rally GOP voters, but he's also not sure it'll be enough to defeat two-term Democratic incumbent Senator Claire McCaskill in November. She's in a tight race against Republican nominee Josh Hawley, the current state attorney general. Fifty-three-year-old Sandy Panetta walks up. She works as an office manager nearby. She says it's different from 2016 not having Trump on the ballot.
SANDY PANETTA: It's different, but these midterms are crazy important. Yeah.
GONYEA: I had the following exchange with her about GOP enthusiasm.
The polls do show that the Democrats have a pretty good size edge in terms of enthusiasm about this...
GONYEA: ...Election. What do you make of that?
PANETTA: Exactly what they said about the presidential election, and they were wrong. So I'm hoping they're wrong again. I mean, I think the enthusiasm's there for the midterms for the Republicans. It's going to be a red wave.
GONYEA: So it's the - you think it might be a red wave?
GONYEA: Trump says that.
PANETTA: Yeah. I agree.
GONYEA: Though Trump's prediction of a big red wave is an unusual way to ward off the kind of complacency many GOP leaders are worried about this year as they try to avoid the kind of midterm losses Democrats suffered during the Obama administration. Twenty-three-year-old Ben Lewis stops by the booth in search of buttons and a new Trump flag. At first, his enthusiasm also appears to be through the roof.
BEN LEWIS: I'm definitely a hundred percent more fired up now because I am really excited to have someone that's going to piss a bunch of people off because it's the truth and that's what they need to hear.
GONYEA: But when I ask him about November, he has little to say. He's not even sure who's running. Turns out he's fired up about Trump and re-electing him in 2020, but he has no plans to vote this year. He's just not interested.
But the 2018 election - don't really care?
LEWIS: It's not really my thing. I'm sorry. I just don't really care.
GONYEA: So President Trump hopes to lock in the excitement of those already on board. The bigger challenge - motivating those who have checked out. The last Democratic wave in the midterms was in '06, when Republicans were not totally fired up about George W. Bush. President Trump has no such problem. The question is whether that can overcome Democratic enthusiasm, which is rallying against Trump. Don Gonyea, NPR News, Springfield, Mo.
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