The general election is a year away, but it felt like 2016: President Trump’s rally in Hershey on Tuesday had the same feel, the same look, and especially the same energy that Pennsylvania rallies had three years ago when swaths of the electorate embraced his campaign and its rhetoric.
Impeachment was the order of the day in Washington as House Democrats announced articles of impeachment. But inside the Giant Center, the president’s base ignited and charged the cavernous venue with the same loud and raucous excitement last seen at the venue just after his election when he held a so-called “victory lap.”
The president may be facing a slew of hurdles – from low job approval rates, Democratic gains in Pennsylvania suburbs and impeachment – but his supporters remain immutable and impermeable to any of those challenges.
On the day that articles of impeachment against him were announced, his supporters even persisted with their famous chant: “Lock her up. Lock her up.”
Amid a sea of red MAGA hats, T-shirts emblazoned with “God, guns and Trump” and the echoing chants of “USA USA” and “Four more years,” Trump supporters were there to show their approval – and push back against the narrative that the president is trailing in the polls and deficient in job approval.
“I love him,” said Stephanie Daub of Lebanon, who was attending her first Trump rally, opting for the standing area in front of the president’s podium.
“I think he could go for eight more years. Not four but eight,” she said.
Greetings from a rainy Hershey, PA, where Pres. Trump is holding a rally in 9+ hours and this crowd is already gathering – pic.twitter.com/zkZlrTcMoS
— Kailani Koenig (@kailanikm) December 10, 2019
— Team Trump (Text TRUMP to 88022) (@TeamTrump) December 10, 2019
— Kristinn Taylor (@KristinnFR) December 10, 2019
“I stood outside four hours in line in the rain. I don’t see how Donald Trump can lose,” said Tim Gluck of Bucks County. “The economy is going good. It’s hard to fight when the economy is good.”
Trump didn’t disappoint. Speaking for just under one-and-a-half hours, he reeled off a list of what he said are the biggest accomplishments of his presidency so far, including jobs and manufacturing growth, unemployment, tough economic policies on China and the new trade deal with Canada and Mexico.
“We have never had anything like this. You’re so lucky I became your president,” Trump said.
Indeed when he spoke specifically Pennsylvania points, the crowd went wild.
The somber proceedings that played out in Washington earlier in the day seemed a world away.
For supporters like Gluck, the impeachment process is a minor distraction – certainly at least in contrast to the sparked atmosphere inside the packed stadium.
“It’s not moving the country forward,” Gluck said of impeachment. “The Democrats don’t want to do anything. They are not getting anything done besides impeachment.”
Thousands & thousands of @realDonaldTrump supporters in Hershey, Pennsylvania.
— #ThePersistence (@ScottPresler) December 10, 2019
Katy Tur on tonights Trump rally: "One of the biggest I’ve ever seen"pic.twitter.com/TzHqey71l3
— Henry Rodgers (@henryrodgersdc) December 11, 2019
For Shawn Fallon of Philadelphia, that meant wearing a black T-shirt with the words: “God, guns and Trump.”
For Nathan Giddings, it was an opportunity to affirm that voting Republican for the first time in his life in 2016 had been the right choice for him.
“The Democrats have become too liberal for me,” said Giddings, who traveled from Philadelphia to see the president. “Their base is way too far left.”
Trump won Pennsylvania in 2016 by a razor-thin margin, and largely by garnering the white female vote and that of independents. Giddings, who is African American, says the president isn’t done gaining the support of blacks.
“Trump’s values resonate with me,” he said. “He is pro-life and so am I and he’s for more jobs.”
With 20 Electoral College votes, Pennsylvania remains a critical state in the general election. Trump was the first Republican to win the state in a presidential election in almost 30 years.
And while the impeachment process is gaining support, particularly among independents, Trump’s base here tonight remained steadfast that the president’s open invitations to a foreign nation to meddle in U.S. elections do not rise to the level of impeachment worthy.
“I don’t believe he did anything detrimental to our country,” Giddings said.
A few independent voters were found among the crowd.
Laura Westerberg of Mechanicsburg, once an independent voter, struck a vote of confidence in Trump. The crowd was overwhelmingly on the older side, but there was a fair share of young people.
Westerberg, who is 60, said that more and more of her young colleagues are joining the Trump base.
“I feel excited,” she said. “I feel people are waking up to this is how you take action, how you get things done. Instead of years of not doing anything this president is getting things done.”
Trump 2020 campaign spokeswoman Erin Perrine said the Trump base is not only solid, but is growing.
She noted that all across the country, supporters line up for days in advance to see the president.
“That’s what we see everywhere we go in the country,” Perrine said. “It is a rock solid base and one that grows and expands every time Democrats take another aggressive step to try and impeach the duly elected president of the United States.”
Taking his usual jabs at Democrats, from former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Elizabeth Warren down to Pete Buttigieg, Trump capped it off by saying: “We will destroy our country if these people get in.”
After more than hour speaking, Trump ended his rally with a promise: “Ladies and gentlemen of Pennsylvania, the best is yet to come.”
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