WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump traveled to western Pennsylvania on Tuesday for what the White House billed as a speech on energy independence and the U.S. economy – but which just as frequently looked and sounded like a campaign rally.
“In 2020, we’re running, so you better get out there and make sure we win,” Trump told a supportive crowd at the soon-to-be-completed Pennsylvania Petrochemicals Complex in Monaca, Pa. – a key state to the president’s 2016 win and his hopes for re-election in 2020.
Citing his 2016 success in surrounding Beaver County – “I did very well here” – Trump blasted Democratic economic policies, knocked Democrat Hillary Clinton and touched on campaign themes like “America First,” deregulation, his proposed border wall with Mexico, and attacks on “the political class in Washington” and its past trade policies.
He spoke for more than an hour.
At one point, Trump told the crowd he would be speaking with local union leaders, and planned to tell them “I hope you’re gonna support Trump.” If they don’t, Trump told his backers, “vote ’em out of office.”
Trump criticized several of the Democratic candidates lining up against him by name, including Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden.
“I don’t think they give a damn about western Pennsylvania, do you?” he asked.
Citing guests in the audience, Trump – who walked on stage to his campaign theme song, Lee Greenwood’s “Proud to be an America” – saluted David Urban, who ran his state campaign in Pennsylvania. “How are we doing in the state, David?” Trump asked. “I think we’re looking good all over.”
President Donald Trump in Pennsylvania on Tuesday. (Photo: NICHOLAS KAMM, AFP/Getty Images)
Trumpeting his election success in West Virginia, Trump told the crowd that “this time we have a good chance of winning Virginia.” At points in his speech, Trump bashed predecessor Barack Obama and his vice president, Biden.
In a statement, the White House said Trump would speak about his support for “expanding domestic manufacturing and energy production.”
Democrats said the event seemed more political than presidential.
“Trump turned an official event that was supposed to be focused on workers into a campaign rally focused on himself, filled with lies, broken promises, and complete nonsense,” said Daniel Wessel, a spokesman for the Democratic National Committee. “And once again, American taxpayers footed the bill for him to do so.”
Operating in a region with massive deposits of natural gas, the plant Trump visited is designed to turn that gas into small plastic pellets used to make things like phone cases and auto parts.
Environment groups have criticized the plant and Trump’s role in promoting it via de-regulation.
“Trump is ignoring the dangers of making mountains of new plastic,” said Emily Jeffers, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “This plant will pollute Pennsylvania communities and worsen the ocean plastic pollution crisis.”
In 2016, Trump became the first Republican since 1988 to win Pennsylvania in a presidential race. The Keystone State helped enable Trump’s to win Electoral College over Clinton, who won the popular vote.
Pennsylvania is now a key part of Trump’s re-election bid. Trump last visited the state for a May 20 rally in Montoursville. Recent polls in Pennsylvania have shown Democratic presidential candidates Biden and Bernie Sanders with large leads over Trump.
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