YOUNGSTOWN — President Trump played his greatest hits from the campaign trail to an adoring crowd Tuesday in Youngstown, Ohio.
He stoked a nearly packed Covelli Centre into a frenzy of classic chants like “Drain the swamp,” “Fake news” and “Build that wall.”
“Don’t even think about it. We will build that wall,” Trump said. “We’re building that wall, and walls do work, and we’re going to have great people coming into our country.”
Trump announced a nationwide crackdown on sanctuary cities. Last week, the Pittsburgh City Council held a public hearing during which residents urged members to consider passing legislation to make Pittsburgh a sanctuary city, which could prohibit local police from cooperating with federal immigration authorities.
When your First Lady lights up the auditorium. pic.twitter.com/A7ojclRIZE
— The TRUMP PAGE (@MichaelDeLauzon) July 26, 2017
Trump ticked off the issues that helped him win widespread support in Youngstown and the surrounding Mahoning and Trumbull counties: Immigration, trade, supporting police officers and supporting the military and health care reform.
“We are now one step closer to liberating our citizens from this Obamacare nightmare and delivering great health care for our American people,” Trump said, noting that the Senate took steps Tuesday toward repealing former President Obama’s Affordable Health Care Act.
“Any senator that votes against repeal and replace is telling America that they are fine with the Obamacare nightmare,” Trump said later to a chorus of boos.
Dylan Lovett, 23, made the trip to the rally from East Liverpool with his friend, Cade Montgomery, 18. Trump appealed to them as a candidate because he talked about jobs and reviving the coal industry, Montgomery said, pointing out that Youngstown and surrounding areas have suffered in the wake of the decline in coal and manufacturing.
Both hope the president will do something to create more jobs in the region.
“There’s a stereotype that most of his supporters are older people,” Lovett said. “It affects everybody, whether you’re young or old.”
Jobs were at the top of the minds of many supporters outside the Covelli Centre, and Trump renewed his promises to bring jobs back to the Mahoning Valley.
Trump said he and first lady Melania Trump noticed empty factories as they rode in from the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport in nearby Vienna, Ohio. The first lady asked Trump what happened. He told her those jobs left Ohio.
“They’re all coming back,” Trump told the crowd to a thunderous applause.
Trump told the crowd not to move, not to sell their homes.
“We’re going to fill up those factories, or we’re going to tear them down and build new ones,” he said.
Trump claimed to put coal mines and coal miners back on the map. He said that his administration would pour money into fixing infrastructure. He said they would fix roads, bridges, tunnels and airports and that they would use American steel, iron and aluminum.
The crowd erupted.
Trump’s promises to bring back jobs to Rust Belt cities like Youngstown helped him carry Ohio in November.
Trump didn’t win the surrounding Mahoning County in 2016, but the fact that he barely lost speaks volumes. Mahoning County last voted for a Republican presidential nominee in 1972, when Richard Nixon won the county by 1,700 votes.
In 2008, then-candidate Barack Obama steamrolled Sen. John McCain by 26 percentage points. More than 32,000 votes separated the candidates that year. Obama beat Mitt Romney in 2012 by 28 points in 2012.
So the fact that Trump last fall lost Mahoning County by only 3,380 votes, or 3.3 percentage points, means he made inroads in the Rust Belt union stronghold.
“I think they liked the messenger. They liked Trump’s sort of tough-guy persona. They liked that he wasn’t a traditional politician,” said Paul Sracic, chairman of the Department of Politics and International Relations at Youngstown State University.
“The things that annoy people about him, endear him to them,” Sracic added. “It’s a shot-and-beer town.”
— The TRUMP PAGE (@MichaelDeLauzon) July 26, 2017
Trump admitted that he doesn’t act presidential. He said acting presidential is easy. Acting the way he does — without concern for political correctness — is harder, he said. But Trump said he could be presidential if he wanted.
“With the exception of the great Abraham Lincoln, I can be more presidential than any other president,” Trump said.
Later, the president joked whether he would be added to Mount Rushmore.
“He’s made us proud to be Americans,” said Beverly Firmstone, 62, of neighboring Columbiana County.
“And he ain’t done yet,” her husband, Joe Firmstone, 62, added.
Kyle Storm, 21, of nearby Warren, Ohio, went to Trump rallies during the campaign and was excited at the chance to see him as president. Storm hopes Trump is able to bring jobs back to the struggling Mahoning Valley and said that the president has done a good job during his first six months,
“Despite what some news outlets focus on,” Storm said, calling the Russia allegation stupid. “Do the American people really care about that or do they care about infrastructure and bringing jobs back?”
— FOX Business (@FoxBusiness) July 25, 2017
A few blocks away from Covelli Centre, protesters organized by the Mahoning County Democratic Party gathered for a counter-rally.
“He didn’t win Mahoning County,” said David Betras, chairman of the Mahoning County Democratic Party. “So this isn’t his real estate.”
Betras said the gathering was a conglomerate of several progressive organizations in the area that are not satisfied with the administration.
“We say, ‘promises made, promises broken,’ ” Betras said.
Aaron Aupperlee and Jamie Martines are Tribune-Review staff writers.
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