ST. CHARLES, Mo. -- President Donald Trump on Wednesday traveled to Missouri to whip up support for the Republican tax plan working its way through Congress -- and in the process put himself squarely into the state's heated 2018 U.S. Senate race.
In a speech that appeared to be a mix of prepared remarks and ad libs, Trump several times expressed his support for Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley in the state's Republican Senate primary next year.
At least three other Republicans are seeking the nomination, including one who calls himself the "MAGA" candidate, referring to Trump's "Make America Great Again" slogan.
Nonetheless, Trump, in introducing local GOP officials on hand for the event, called Hawley "our next senator." Later in the speech, he vowed: "Josh when you're ready, you have my word, I'm going to come here and campaign for you."
In a speech to about 1,000 invited supporters at the St. Charles Convention Center, Trump hammered at the message that the Republican tax plan is the best way to offer relief to the American people.
He hearkened back to St. Charles' past as a frontier city, saying America could rediscover the pioneer spirit, and he praised the city's Main Street corridor. "Just as it's always been, Main Street is the heart of our economy," he said, asserting that tax cuts would stimulate the nation's economy.
Trump's comments on Missouri's U.S. Senate race are likely to further cement Hawley's status as front-runner for the Republican nomination. The eventual nominee will challenge incumbent U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., as she seeks her third term next November.
One of Hawley's Republican challengers for the Senate nomination, former Libertarian presidential candidate Austin Petersen, declared Trump's comments "not the end of the world."
"Trump endorsed Luther Strange in Alabama" over Roy Moore in that state's Republican Senate primary this year, "and we saw how that worked out," Petersen said. Moore won.
Fellow GOP candidate Courtland Sykes, an enthusiastic Trump supporter who calls himself the "MAGA candidate," issued a statement saying: "I remain 100 percent behind the president. ... The president is being badly advised." Retired Air Force pilot Tony Monetti also has said he's running.