MENDON, Ill. — Former President Donald Trump spent part of a rally Saturday night for Illinois Republican Congresswoman Mary Miller praising the U.S. Supreme Court for overturning Roe v. Wade.
“Your boundless love, sacrifice and devotion has finally been rewarded in full,” Trump said at the rally near Quincy attended by several thousand. “As a candidate in 2016 … I promised to nominate judges and justices who would stand up for the original meaning of the Constitution and who would honestly and faithfully interpret the law as written.”
Later, Miller joined Trump onstage and said: “On behalf of all the MAGA patriots of America, I want to thank you for the historic victory for white life in the Supreme Court yesterday.”
That comment went viral on social media, with people accusing her of racism, and was widely covered nationally in the news media. Miller campaign spokesman Isiah Wartman said she meant to say “right to life.”
“To suggest that she is somehow not committed to defending all life is disgusting,” Wartman said. “She has the most pro-life voting record in Congress and is the proud grandmother of two beautiful grandchildren with Down syndrome. The fake news media is targeting Mary Miller because she is doing everything she can to stop the Democrats from allowing the massacre of babies like her grandchildren.”
This isn’t the first time Miller, whose district includes part of the Metro East, has generated outrage in a speech. She made a remark in a 2021 speech that seemed to praise Adolf Hitler. She eventually apologized for that comment.
Miller’s opponent in the GOP primary, Congressman Rodney Davis, said in a statement on Sunday that the first-term congresswoman’s “comments yesterday are just another part in a disturbing pattern of behavior she’s displayed since coming to Congress.”
“This is why it’s so important to vote in our Republican Primary on Tuesday and show the country Miller’s behavior is unacceptable,” Davis said.
Praise for Trump and the Supreme Court
Overturning Roe only became possible after Trump’s 2016 election. He appointed three justices to the Supreme Court — all of whom chose to overturn Roe v. Wade, which had guaranteed a constitutional right to an abortion.
“Thanks to the courage found within the United States Supreme Court, this long-divisive issue will be decided by the states — and the American people,” Trump said.
Miller, who like her opponent Davis, is opposed to abortion rights, told the crowd to “rejoice and celebrate this historic victory for life — and victory for the unborn babies with no voice.”
“We owe this victory to the bold leadership of President Trump,” Miller said. “He kept his promise by appointing justices who upheld the Constitution.”
Among the Miller supporters who traveled to Adams County was U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colorado. In addition to backing Miller’s candidacy, she attributed the fall of Roe to Trump.
“President Trump is the most pro-life president America has ever had,” Boebert said. “These are important victories. This is what you worked for. This is what you have voted for. This is what you have prayed for. And the harvest of these prayers will result in children, five years from today, running to school with smiles on their face — because they get a chance to win.”
Even though opposition to abortion rights may be popular in rural parts of Illinois, the decision could doom GOP hopes of ever gaining meaningful ground again in statewide politics. Attendees of the rally on Saturday night hope that doesn’t come to pass.
“I’m pro-life. You’re talking about the most vulnerable people,” said Peoria resident Susie Allgas. “What if one of those babies knew how to cure cancer? Or was another Trump? Or whoever?”
The demise of Roe was largely popular among the crowd coming to see Trump — including Mendon resident James Walker, who feels like “every child needs a chance.”
But opposing abortion rights hasn’t been a popular stance in terms of statewide races in Illinois. In fact, the state’s voters have picked governors who back abortion access — including Republican ones like Bruce Rauner and Jim Edgar.
Based on that history, Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker may get a boost if he is facing a GOP nominee who doesn’t support abortion rights — which looks likely with state Sen. Darren Bailey’s rise in the polls.
“The conversations that I’ve had with people are that we are grateful for being a blue state,” said Adams County Democratic Party Chairwoman Katherine Daniels. “We are grateful that Gov. Pritzker and the legislature in the state of Illinois are working to codify the rights that women have come to know and expect.”
Bailey’s campaign received a big boost when Trump provided his endorsement. Neither Trump nor Bailey mentioned abortion during that section of the rally.
Daniels added that if Republicans are going to oppose the ability of people to get an abortion, then they should also support governmental expansions in child care and parental leave.
“I mean, Republicans don’t care about children. They don’t care about women,” Daniels said. “They care about power and control and authoritarianism.”
Blandinsville resident Allie Ebert said she was pleased that Trump was able to appoint the Supreme Court justices who helped overturn Roe v. Wade. But she acknowledged that the state’s political demographics are not favorable to people who do not support abortion rights.
“I’ve always said that … we live in the state of Chicago. Chicago needs to be its own state,” Ebert said. “Everything goes to Chicago. All of our tax dollars go to Chicago. Chicago runs the whole state.”
“I feel like my vote doesn’t count,” she added.
Palatine resident Jeff Smith, who was wearing a T-shirt that showcased his opposition to abortion rights, said he hopes candidates like Bailey win — and doesn’t buy that his candidacy is doomed because of his stance on abortion.
“Keep the baby alive,” Smith said.
At least one Trump supporter at the rally, Quincy resident Matthew Dobey, said that he was uncomfortable with banning abortion in all instances — especially in the case of rape. Missouri’s abortion ban, for instance, does not include exceptions for pregnancy due to rape or incest.
“I’m not judge and jury and I’m not God. I don’t think anybody walking this Earth is either,” Dobey said.
Miller banks on Trump support in bid against Davis
During their speeches, Boebert and Miller excoriated Davis for not being conservative enough and for not supporting Trump’s political endeavors enough.
Boebert told the crowd that she had come to the Quincy area to go “RINO hunting.” RINO is a derisive term for Republicans who aren’t conservative enough. It’s become more prominent lately after Missouri U.S. Senate hopeful Eric Greitens released a web ad showing him storming into a house with a gun along with people dressed as military members and suggesting RINO hunting permits.
Greitens was at the rally and mingled with the crowd. Trump did not mention him.
“When I got to Congress, it turns out I’m a professional political RINO hunter,” Boebert said. “So I thought I would come here today to talk about the elephant, or the donkey, in the room — and pull out my political RINO hunting skills.
“If you want someone who has your constitutional rights at the forefront of every decision-making — it’s Mary Miller,” she added.
After calling him an “establishment RINO,” Miller alluded to how Davis called for Trump to withdraw in October 2020 after a tape came out showing the then-GOP presidential nominee making vulgar remarks about women.
“If Rodney Davis had gotten his way, we would have had crooked Hillary Clinton in the White House,” Miller said. “And we would have had the most leftist Supreme Court in history.”
On the issue of President Joe Biden’s election. Miller voted against accepting Pennsylvania and Arizona’s electoral votes, while Davis accepted them.
During an interview earlier this month with St. Louis Public Radio, Davis criticized Miller for being inaccessible to the media and emphasized that he’s built a stronger constituent service system since coming to Congress in 2013.
“There’s a lot more to being a member of Congress or being in government … than just fighting for your own political party,” Davis said.
He also pointed out how he’s managed to keep his House seat in Republican hands, even when he’s been targeted by national Democratic groups.
“A lot of the constituents, 80%, know that I’m a fighter,” Davis said. “I have fought Nancy Pelosi every election cycle. … Every election cycle, it’s been a race that has been at times the No. 1 most competitive race in the nation. These are the fights I’m used to.”
The primary election is Tuesday. Since the district is overwhelmingly Republican, the winner of the Miller-Davis showdown is heavily favored to win in November.
Follow Jason on Twitter: @jrosenbaum
Follow Brian on Twitter: @brianmunoz