State GOP leader says he likes Trump policies, not rhetoric

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Kentucky's Republican Party chairman said Wednesday that he's not a fan of President Donald Trump's rhetoric but likes his policies, acknowledging that the president's tone hurt some GOP candidates in suburban districts.

GOP Chairman Mac Brown and his counterpart, state Democratic Party Chairman Ben Self, told a Louisville audience that the Republican president played an oversized role in last week's midterm elections in Kentucky and elsewhere.

"A lot of people - and I'm included in this - don't like his rhetoric, don't like the way he speaks, but we like his policies," Brown told the Louisville Forum, a nonpartisan public issues group. "And that's one of the big things that people are thinking and looking through are the policies that are happening."

Trump's rhetoric, Brown said, "hurt us in the urban areas, without question."

Democrats won a pair of Republican-held state House seats in suburban Louisville and a Democrat leads by a few dozen votes in a House race still too close to call in Lexington. But the GOP dominated rural areas in maintaining overwhelming majorities in the state legislature.

Assessing Trump's role in the election, Self criticized the president's drumbeat of pre-election warnings about a migrant caravan headed toward the United States. Trump warned that the caravan includes "bad thugs" and potential terrorists.

"To me, that was used as a very specific political tool in this last election to energize a base to try to get them out to vote," Self said. "And the unfortunate thing is that it was successful in many cases."

Self said Democrats didn't win as many legislative seats as they had hoped but said the party's comeback will be a "multiyear process."

"We took a real beating in 2016 here in Kentucky and you can't turn that around in one election cycle," he said.

Kentucky's only Democratic congressman, John Yarmuth, said last week that the statewide election results showed that Trump is "still tough to beat in Kentucky." Trump carried Kentucky by a landslide on his way to the presidency in 2016.

The two state party leaders talked Wednesday about broad goals of raising voter turnout and getting more young voters to participate.

Self said voters in some areas of Kentucky endured long waits last week, saying it discourages some from participating.

Brown said he personally has no problem with allowing early voting in Kentucky. Self agreed enthusiastically.

"I am really excited to hear that," he said. "I think that's a really big deal. Hopefully, our Republican legislators ... will hear that as well and hopefully plan to make some changes."

Currently, voting in Kentucky is limited to Election Day unless people meet conditions to vote by absentee ballot.

The party chairmen also exchanged a few barbs during the hourlong event. When Self predicted that the GOP-dominated legislature would continue its "anti-workers" policies, Brown replied: "Ouch." Brown then pointed to low unemployment in Kentucky and Republican Gov. Matt Bevin's efforts to put more money into workforce development.

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