By Ray Duffy
Sept. 3, President Donald Trump made a campaign stop in Latrobe, where he gave a speech from a hangar at Arnold Palmer Regional Airport. This was his first visit to western Pennsylvania since he spoke at a convention in the Pittsburgh area in 2019.
Despite the threat of rain, traffic was backed up on Route 30 for most of the afternoon, and the line for the event was already 500 strong by noon, a Saint Vincent student attending the rally said. The student asked not to be named for fear of repercussions due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Several other students attended the rally, but most likewise asked not to be named. Photos posted online showed most attendees without masks.
By the start of the rally at 7:00 p.m., the main seating area inside the hangar was full and spectators filled an overflow area on the tarmac—a TribLive estimate for attendance at the rally placed it in the thousands.
Trump’s roughly hour-and-a-half long speech focused on issues important to western Pennsylvania, such as fracking, jobs and law and order.
The President claimed that his Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, wants to end fracking in Western Pennsylvania. This action would, according to Trump, kill over 900,000 jobs in the state and triple energy bills. Biden’s pledge to re-enter the United States into the Paris Climate Accord after the US withdrew from it in 2017 also drew ire from the president.
“It’s a death sentence for your energy jobs,” he said, according to a transcript from Rev.com, crossed-checked with a video recording to ensure accuracy. “It’s going to cost you billions and billions of dollars.”
While discussing employment opportunities, the President returned to a common subject: Chinese theft of American jobs.
“Joe Biden wants to surrender your jobs to China,” the transcript read. “But I will keep your jobs in America. . . . Joe Biden’s agenda is made in China; my agenda is made in America.”
Regarding jobs lost due to the coronavirus, Trump stated that numbers are now recovering.
“Job numbers, retail sale numbers, they’re all at record,” he said.
Trump then emphasized his commitment to law and order, claiming that it contrasted with his opponent’s approach concerning civil unrest and rioting in Portland and Kenosha due to police violence.
“Rioters, looters, violent extremists, anarchists, we will bring them to justice,” he said. “For the entire summer, Biden was silent as far left rioters viciously attacked law enforcement in Democrat-run cities, burned down businesses, terrorized civilians, and just recently marched through the streets chanting, ‘Death to America,’” Trump said.
While most of the speech was focused on issues of employment and public safety, the president did make some of his trademark asides. These included lambasting Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi for not wearing a mask in a hair salon, and complaining about eco-friendly paper straws.
“The new straw, it’s made out of paper, right?” he asked. “It disintegrates as you drink [and] by the time you get finished, the straw is totally disintegrated.”
The president also claimed that Democrats plan to blow up Mount Rushmore in light of recent protests concerning public monuments erected to persons with connections to slavery or racism.
Genevieve LaFosse, a sophomore communication major attending the rally, said she enjoyed the experience.
“By the time I got there around 3 the rain had all stopped and it was cloudy. Air Force One flew practically directly over Saint Vincent, and the sun came out when the plane flew in. There was a gorgeous sunset behind Trump as he gave his speech. The atmosphere was really nice . . . everybody was super nice and talkative and everybody [seemed] hyped to see the president,” she said.
While it may have been Trump’s first visit to western Pennsylvania in some time, it won’t be the last. Both Trump and Biden returned this week, visiting the Flight 93 memorial in Shanksville on Sept. 11. Just as in 2016, Pennsylvania is quickly turning into a key battleground state.