By Jamie Wiggan
President Donald Trump revived talk on energy and manufacturing as he addressed a crowd in Moon Township six weeks before election day.
“Your steel mills would be closed if I hadn’t been elected,” he said.
In 2016, Trump became the first Republican presidential candidate to win Pennsylvania since George H. W. Bush’s 1988 victory. He did so largely by promising to restore jobs in energy and manufacturing, and he struck a similar tone during his Sept. 23 rally in Moon.
“I represent the people of Pittsburgh, not Paris,” the president repeated to his supporters, lauding his decision to opt out of the Paris Agreement on climate change signed by Barack Obama and the leaders of 194 other nations in 2016.
During the rally, Trump repeatedly voiced support for fracking while criticizing renewable energy sources as ineffective.
“…Do you have any idea how big you are on energy? People don’t think of Pennsylvania that way.”
He also weighed in on a range of issues gripping the nation in the lead-up to the election.
He blamed China for allowing the coronavirus to breach its borders while applauding his own efforts to combat the virus’s spread within the U.S.
“We were very, very sadly disturbed by what happened with China,” he said. “They let the plague out — they shouldn’t have done it.”
Trump assured his supporters the country had seen the worst of the virus and suggested Democratic politicians are now using it as a ploy to damage the economy ahead of the election.
“They don’t want to open [restaurants]… they want them to do badly until November. But don’t worry they’re gonna open them on Nov. 4.”
According to Center for Disease Control statistics, nearly seven million Americans have contracted the disease since the outbreak, and more than 200,000 have died.
Weighing in on the racial unrest spurred by a string of high-profile Black deaths involving law enforcement, Trump focused on condemning those protests that escalated to looting and violence.
“The Democratic Party has joined forces with flag-burners, anarchists, anti-police people — they’re extremists — agitators, and then they say ‘oh no, this is a peaceful protest,’” he said.
Locally, the president referenced a recent incident in downtown Pittsburgh involving several organizers who also led a protest in McKees Rocks earlier in the summer.
“Over Labor Day weekend, left-wing radicals rampaged through Pittsburgh, harassing diners at restaurants,” he said. “I saw that one, it was horrible.”
Videos of the incident — later distributed by news platforms around the world — show protestors approaching diners outside a restaurant and verbally accosting them before one protestor swallows a customer’s drink and another knocks over a glass that smashes on the ground.
The protestors later claimed the videos only show one side of the incident, now under investigation by Pittsburgh Police.
Commenting before the Moon rally, McKees Rocks resident and political hopeful Tristan Yoder said he felt optimistic about the president’s re-election prospects.
“Tonight it’s all about Donald Trump,” he said. “I feel this election’s gonna go good… the crowds are pleased.”
Yoder plans to challenge Democratic incumbent Dan Deasy for Pennsylvania’s 27th legislative district in 2022.
He said his main priorities are increasing police department funding and supporting the local school districts.
“I’ll fight for those kids every day,” he said.
In 2016, Trump carried Pennsylvania by a slim voter margin.
The placement of Pennsylvania's 20 electoral college votes could therefore depend on how well voters here feel he’s lived up to his promises for reviving America’s heartland.
Democratic newcomer Conor Lamb’s upset snatch of Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District in 2018 was widely interpreted as a sign of the disaffection felt by the rural and union workers who backed the president two years earlier.
After the district lines were redrawn, Lamb ran again that same year, becoming the first incumbent of Pennsylvania’s newly reformed 17th district.
Lamb’s current Republican rival, Sean Parnell, took the podium in Moon a few hours before Air Force One touched down with the president inside.
He slammed Lamb for campaigning as a moderate, independent Democrat, only to side with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on most legislative issues passed.
Lamb was one of 15 Democrats to oppose Pelosi’s appointment as house speaker in 2019. According to ProPublica, he sided with Pelosi on 88% of votes during the 2017-2018 congressional session.
During the Sept. 23 rally, Trump steered clear of the bipartisan approach that won Lamb his congressional seat two years ago. Instead, the president doubled down on his Democratic opponents, referring to them as “radical leftists.”
“This is the most important election in the history of our country,” he said.