Trump’s visit mixes action, politics
President Donald Trump’s first trip to the Lehigh Valley since he announced his candidacy for the presidency in 2015 focused on his administration’s stepped-up efforts to produce more personal protection equipment for health care workers and others fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.
Touring Owens & Minor, one of five companies chosen by the Department of Health and Human Services to supply 600 million N95 respirator masks during the next 18 months, Trump was greeted enthusiastically by company officials and employees and by hundreds of ardent supporters who gathered along his motorcade route between the Lehigh Valley International Airport, where Air Force One landed at 1:34 p.m. Thursday, and the distribution plant in Upper Macungie Township, Lehigh County. There were also scatterings of protesters.
Trump deviated often from his prepared remarks to ad-lib comments about what his administration is doing on a number of fronts to fight this “invisible enemy” and “the plague” as he referred to COVID-19. Although he was not as political as he usually is at his raucous campaign rallies, Trump did not let the occasion pass without a few digs.
For example, he made fun of “sleepy” Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president and Trump opponent this fall, for mispronouncing the name of a previous pandemic, H1N1, as N1H1.
He also repeated his criticism of Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, for not moving fast enough to open more parts of the state. “We have to get your governor to start opening up a little bit,” Trump said. “You have areas of Pennsylvania that are barely affected, and they want to keep them closed. They can’t do that.”
Thirteen additional counties in the state moved from “red” to “yellow” today on top of the 24 which did last Friday. Local counties, including Lehigh where Trump was visiting, are clamoring to do the same before the June 4 deadline that Wolf imposed earlier this month.
Trump also took a few swings at the news media for failing to report that the United States has done more testing for the coronavirus than all other countries in the world combined, a comment that has been challenged as inaccurate. He claims that the reason we have the most coronavirus cases in the world is because we do the most testing.
Trump noted that his brother, Fred, was a Lehigh University graduate and that President Trump gave the Lehigh commencement address in 1988. He praised the A-B-E area for its manufacturing footprint, and he even gave a shout out to former world heavyweight boxing champ, Larry Holmes. “He was some fighter,” Trump said. “Tell Larry I said ‘hello,’ ” he added after learning that the Easton Assassin still lives in Palmer Township.
Although the White House will not confirm this, the Lehigh Valley destination was the second choice for this visit. Trump originally wanted to go to a similar facility in Marcus Hook, Delaware County, but officials were not comfortable with having people coming in from outside of the plant, especially those who refuse to wear facial coverings, so that trip was postponed until a later date.
All employees at Owens & Minor and virtually everyone else wore face masks; Trump, as usual, did not. He also did not wear one when he toured a face mask manufacturing plant two weeks ago in Arizona.
Although the trip was billed as an official White House visit, Trump knows the importance of Pennsylvania to his re-election quest later this year.
In 2016, Trump was the first Republican to carry the Keystone State since 1988, which was a key to his stunning upset victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton.
In this year’s presidential election, Pennsylvania will be equally crucial, and supporters have begun the rallying cry of “20 in 2020,” referring to the state’s 20 electoral votes.
As is the case with most states, Pennsylvania has a winner-take-all format, meaning that regardless of the margin of victory, the winner gets all of the electoral votes.
In 2016, Trump captured Pennsylvania by about 44,000 votes out of more than 6 million cast, a difference of just 0.72%. This was the narrowest margin of victory in a presidential election in the state since 1840 when William Henry Harrison became the ninth president by defeating incumbent Martin Van Buren. Harrison won Pennsylvania by a mere 0.12%
In the last presidential election, Trump carried Northampton, Carbon, Schuylkill and Luzerne counties, while Clinton won in Monroe, Lehigh and Lackawanna counties. In all, Trump carried 56 Pennsylvania counties to Clinton’s 11.