Crowd cries for ‘four more years’ of Trump
A sitting President of the United States visited Blair County for the first time in 30 years on Monday afternoon.
Marine One flew into the Altoona-Blair County Airport under gray skies late Monday afternoon. It looped once around the crowd of thousands below, then touched down. President Donald Trump stepped out of the helicopter and walked to the stage, which was decorated in red, white and blue, while “God Bless the U.S.A.” by Lee Greenwood played in the background.
Eight days before the election, Trump visited the area to campaign. He brought up a variety of issues, including the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett for Supreme Court justice, foreign policy, taxes and military spending.
On health care, he said his goal is to give all Americans a free COVID-19 vaccine when it is made available, as well as amend the Affordable Care Act to reduce costs for payers.
Trump assailed Gov. Tom Wolf’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and voiced opposition to the recent state Supreme Court decisions to disallow “poll watchers” and allow votes in the presidential election to be counted if they are received by Nov. 6, three days after the election.
Though he shifted between points and improvised throughout, Trump frequently returned to energy-industry jobs.
“People don’t realize that about Pennsylvania, but fracking is a very big deal,” he said.
Trump criticized former Vice President Joe Biden’s record on trade, calling him a “cheerleader for NAFTA” and blaming him for losses in local manufacturing and energy jobs. In contrast, he called the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which took effect July 1, “great.”
Before the event began, Shawn and Doreen Hart of Altoona said they support the president because of his stance on fracking and coal.
“He’s for the working class person,” Shawn Hart said. “This area was built on trains and coal, and we want to keep those jobs in Altoona.”
“A lot of local jobs left because of NAFTA,” Doreen Hart added.
Trump received the most cheers when he mentioned the Second Amendment and while discussing his goal to stop “radical indoctrination of our students and restore patriotic education to our schools.”
Halfway through the speech, the president pointed out the designated area for the media at the event — international, national and local outlets including the Altoona Mirror and other media outlets — using the term “fake news,” and drawing boos from the crowd.
At the end, many in the crowd were chanting to the president, “We love you.”
Before the president arrived, local leaders and politicians spoke in support of the president and his goals.
State Sen. Judy Ward, R-Blair, spoke first. She praised Trump for his stances on the Second Amendment and the nomination of Barrett.
“President Trump came to Blair County four years ago promising to stand with us, and he delivered,” she said.
After her speech, the crowd began chanting “four more years.”
U.S. Congressman Glenn “GT” Thompson, R-15th District, took the stage afterward and called this election “a crossroads.”
He said his two goals between now and Nov. 3 are to reelect Donald Trump as president and “fire Nancy Pelosi,” which was met with loud cheering and applause.
Thompson turned his sights to state elections, saying those going to the polls can “provide adult supervision for Tom Wolf” by voting for the Republican candidates for state attorney general, treasurer and auditor general positions.
“We need to restore checks and balances in Harrisburg,” he said.
U.S. Rep. John Joyce, R-13th District, was the last speaker before the president arrived. He used the phrase, “promises made, promises kept,” arguing Trump delivered on policy aims such as “increasing pay for troops” and “establishing energy independence for the first time in our lives.”
Susan Kensinger of Bellwood said before the event that she supports the president on this point.
“He’s done everything he said he’d do,” she said.
Joyce also commended Trump for his pro-life stance.
“He is the only president who has come for the March for Life,” he said.
Ken Raub of Martinsburg, 61, said he and his wife “love Trump” and felt the election is “good versus evil.”
“We are Christians and against killing babies in the womb,” he said.
Blair County Sheriff James Ott opened the event with prayer and Martinsburg Mayor Richard Brantner led the Pledge of Allegiance.
Trump last visited the area in 2016 when he held a rally at the Blair County Convention Center in Altoona during his first presidential campaign. He is the first sitting president to visit Blair County since George H.W. Bush in 1990, according to the Blair County Historical Society.
Neither the state GOP nor Donald Trump campaign responded to a request about the number of tickets dispersed for this event.