In his first visit to the Lehigh Valley, President Donald Trump headed to an Upper Macungie Township medical equipment distributor, where he renewed his push to reopen the nation’s economy with a focus on Pennsylvania.
Here’s more on the greeting he received, the message he brought to the Valley, and the hat-tip he offered to the region’s history:
Nod to the location
Trump began his remarks with a shoutout to the Lehigh Valley, noting that his deceased brother, Fred, graduated from Lehigh University and that he gave the school’s commencement address in 1988.
He praised Pennsylvania and Allentown workers several times, saying that for generations, “American greatness was made, forged, and won in places like Bethlehem and Easton.”
“Allentown, your ancestors in this region are the patriots who mined the coal, loaded the rail cars, and poured the steel that built our biggest cities and raised our tallest towers,” Trump said, adding that with the help of the state’s workforce, "we’re going to vanquish the virus.”
He also name-dropped one of Easton’s most famous residents, boxing heavyweight Larry Holmes: “He was some fighter, huh? He used to talk about Easton. That’s great. Say hello to Larry.”
No mask for Trump
After tweeting earlier in the week that Pennsylvanians “want their freedom now,” criticizing Gov. Tom Wolf and other Democratic officials as moving too slowly on reopening the economy, Trump renewed that criticism in person.
“We have to get your governor of Pennsylvania to start opening up a little bit," he told a cheering audience at Owens & Minor Inc. in Upper Macungie Township. “You have areas of Pennsylvania that are barely affected, and they want to keep them closed. You can’t do that.”
As he has at other public appearances, including a stop last week at an Arizona face mask plant, Trump did not don a face mask. Except for Trump’s chief of staff, others did wear masks while at the plant, which has ramped up its safety protocols as a result of the viral outbreak.
Boost supplies stockpile
Trump used the backdrop of the medical distributor to announce plans for bolstering and reconfiguring the beleaguered Strategic National Stockpile, which was undersupplied for the current crisis.
The Trump administration has faced criticism for how those limited supplies were distributed, but the president has directed blame at his predecessor, saying the Obama administration did not restock supplies after the H1N1 outbreak in 2009. Trump says they will build up a 90-day supply of critical gear, expand which pandemic-fighting supplies are kept on hand, cycle out those with shorter shelf lives, and seek to boost domestic manufacturing to better prepare for future surges in demand.
Supporters embrace calls to reopen
While Wolf has called for residents to continue social distancing whenever possible and wearing face masks, many of those lined up along the road to catch a glimpse of Trump eschewed those guidelines. Supporters stood shoulder-to-shoulder in several stretches, as police officers reminded those straying into the road to move back to the grassy edge.
Byron Mundy, a Delaware County resident who held a sign that read, “Don’t cry Wolf” and “Open Penna. now,” was maskless as he sat outside along the curb, but said he does don one when he’s in close quarters inside.
Mundy came to show his support for Trump and for lifting restrictions on Pennsylvania businesses, saying the shutdown was "warranted for maybe two to three weeks,” and that those most vulnerable can stay quarantined if they need to.
Inside, Trump referenced the workers’ socially distant seating: “Look at you people all spread out, 6 feet. That’s pretty impressive. But we like it the old way a little bit better, don’t we?”
No endorsement in primary
As he does in his rallies, Trump offered a quick bit of praise to the state’s GOP members of Congress. Four of the state’s nine Republican U.S. House members met him at the airport: Dan Meuser, whose district includes Carbon and Schuylkill counties; Brian Fitzpatrick, of Bucks County; Fred Keller, of Lycoming County; and Scott Perry, of York County.
He didn’t name those lawmakers individually during his remarks. But he did reference Sean Parnell, a combat veteran running to unseat Democratic U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb in western Pennsylvania whom he previously endorsed.
Trump didn’t weigh in on the GOP primary in the Lehigh Valley’s 7th District, where Lisa Scheller and Dean Browning will face off in the June 2 election. Both candidates, who are seeking to run against Democratic U.S. Rep. Susan Wild in the general election, had signs along the road way outside Trump’s event, and tweeted welcome messages at the president.
Washington correspondent Laura Olson can be reached at 202-780-9540 or [email protected].
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