On a chilly, drizzly Monday morning, thousands of people came together outside a Northampton County factory to soak up the political sunshine they knew their candidate — President Donald Trump — would bring.
Supporters ignored the weather as they waited to see the president they credit with restoring strength to the country and creating an economy second-to-none until the coronavirus pandemic swept the world.
Outside HoverTech International, a medical equipment maker in Hanover Township, some rally-goers wore masks. Many didn’t. Some were draped in Trump 2020 banners. Many sported the famous red MAGA hats. A video played Trump testimonials interspersed with clips of the president and audio of crowds cheering.
“The best president we’ve had,” said Steve Sanders of Washington Township, Northampton County, who arrived around 6 a.m. with his wife, Brenda.
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Sanders said he’s doing better financially thanks to Trump’s tax cuts, and worries the economy will tank if Democrat Joe Biden is elected. He said the president has handled the pandemic as best he could and would be polling better if not for the media.
Some challenged the suggestion that the president mishandled the pandemic.
“We back our president,” said Cindy Woodruff, a registered nurse from upstate New York sporting a “Frontline RN for Trump” T-shirt. “We think what the administration has done to provide us with the [personal protective equipment] and the protection that we need has been great. Yes, people are sick, but they are recovering. So we’re not buying what the fake media has to say.”
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Alice Marchesani of East Stroudsburg, who runs a crisis pregnancy center and called herself a “one issue voter” on the topic of abortion, said Trump has proved the most pro-life president in history by appointing conservative justices and cutting funding for Planned Parenthood.
A Wall Street trader for many years, Paul Mondschein of Northampton County trusts his own instincts about corruption and agrees that Trump is “draining the swamp.”
Lacey Knechel, a Montgomery County resident who works on her father’s dairy farm, thinks Trump helps businesses, instead of just talking about it.
“I think he genuinely cares about American people and doing the best for the country. And I think what he’s done the last four years is evidence to that,” she said. “And I think it’s evidence to what he’s going to continue trying to do in the next four years.”
Yolanda Curran, whose late husband was a police officer, said Democrats have no respect for law enforcement.
“That, with the looting, is a reason for walking away from the Democrats,” she said, referring to the civil unrest that swept the country after George Floyd, a black man in Minneapolis, was killed by a police officer who knelt on his neck.
All were eager Monday to hear the president address the familiar themes that have resonated with his base — restoring manufacturing, cracking down on immigration, protecting gun rights. And Trump did not disappoint, delivering an 80-minute speech that brought ovations from those who packed in to hear it.
Right before Trump spoke, Democrats, including Sen. Bob Casey and Rep. Susan Wild, held a virtual news conference to counter Trump’s plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act and his handling of the coronavirus.
“He won’t lead,” Casey said. “He refuses to lead.”
Trump doesn’t have a plan to deal the coronavirus, Casey said. And he hasn’t detailed how he will rebuild the economy or fix health care besides repealing Obamacare.
“Why doesn’t he tell us what he’s going to do to help Pennsylvania if he were to be reelected?” Casey asked.
Added Wild, “People in Pennsylvania are hurting from this pandemic and economic crisis.”
She called this election the “most critical of our lifetime, predicting Biden would take the region and the state. Election Day also will be critical for Wild, who is running for a second term representing the 7th District, which covers the Lehigh Valley. Her challenger, Republican Lisa Scheller, has Trump’s support.
Trump has been a frequent visitor to Pennsylvania in the past couple weeks, making stops in Johnstown, Erie and Lancaster County, as well as in the Lehigh Valley.
Nancy Patton Mills, the state Democratic party chair, called the visits “a last-ditch effort to catch up to Joe Biden.”
In sizing up Biden rally-goers in Northampton County echoed the president’s own apocalyptic campaign-trail rhetoric.
“If Biden gets elected, the country is doomed,” said Michele Chesley, of Danielsville. “Our values will be trampled and we will turn into a socialist state.”
Protesters, apparently, steered clear of the rally. One stood alone, holding a Biden sign and enduring boos from the crowd.
Otherwise, the rally was festive and filled with people like 12-year-old Gordon Greenlaw of Bucks County, caught up in the excitement of seeing the president of the United States.
Gordon called Trump “an amazing president,” worth getting up at 2:30 a.m. to see, with his mother and two siblings. And it wasn’t the first time he’d seen him. Monday’s Trump rally was Gordon’s fourth.
Morning Call Capitol correspondent Ford Turner can be reached at [email protected].
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