Donald Trump told a crowd at the Lackawanna College Student Union Gymnasium that he knew it was traditional for presidential candidates to dial back their campaigning during the rival party’s convention.
“Well, guess what? We’re campaigning. OK? We’re campaigning,” he said.
Vice President Joe Biden was scheduled to campaign with Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in Scranton July 8, but that joint-appearance was postponed because of the July 7 sniper attack that killed five Dallas police officers.
Besides being in Biden’s hometown, Trump said he was going to work hard to win Pennsylvania. In 2012, President Barack Obama beat Republican nominee Mitt Romney 52 percent to 47 percent, which was a notch closer than the 2008 contest. In 2008, Obama beat Sen. John McCain (R.-AZ) 54 percent to 43 percent.
Critical to winning is the Philadelphia suburbs. Metropolitan Philadelphia makes up 10 percent of turnout and it is dominated by the Democrats and their legendary drop-and-drag get-out-the-vote machine. The central and western parts of the state run strong for the Republicans, but the increasingly liberal Philly suburbs are another 10 percent of the turnout, so that a close to even split in the rest of the state makes it a lock for the Democrats.
To help him make his pitch, Trump introduced “my 6-foot-6 boy,” his son Eric Trump. Eric spoke briefly about how he spent five years at boarding school outside of Scranton and that he has many friends in the area. Not to be outdone, Trump-pere reminded his supporters, he went to college at the Wharton School in Philadelphia.
The New York City developer was introduced by his running mate Indiana Gov. Michael R. Pence, who in less than two weeks has begun to adopt the more conversational style of the man at the top of the ticket.
“It’s a joy to be here,” Pence said. “The nominee and I have been traveling relentlessly since the close of our great and successful convention that sent the message to America that American longed to hear.”
One of the oft-repeated riffs on last week’s Republican National Convention in Cleveland was that Pence and Trump had awkward chemistry and that their pairing was forced upon Trump by his older three children like an assertion of inter-generational estate planning. Contrary to the informed opinion, the Trump supporters in Scranton saw two men that genuinely like each other and get along. After Trump and Pence shook hands and shared a chat, they stood together for photos with Pence making the Trumpian gestures, pointing to his running mate and giving the thumbs up–and in significant style point, both men wore solid red ties with Pence’s hanging over the belt in the Trump fashion.
Trump did not disappoint his supporters by avoiding the old hit songs from the primary season. There was wild applause when he mentioned the wall he promised to build along the Mexican border.
“Are you ready for a quiz?
“Who is going to pay for the wall?”
But, Trump has updated his playlist to include NATO, coal, President William J. Clinton’s convention remarks, the emails leaked from the Democratic National Committee and what he described as the sad end of the presidential campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders (D.-Vt.).
“Poor Bernie, he just wants to go home and go to sleep–who could blame him?” he asked.
Sanders hurt his legacy by not taking his campaign all the way through to the end, he said. “It would have been better than that way he sold out.”
Trump said President Clinton’s Tuesday address, where the former president gave a detailed narrative of his courtship and marriage to the Democratic presidential nominee Hillary R. Clinton, could have included more details.
“He didn’t talk about the kind of things we wanted to hear about,” he said.
When he got to the emails posted on WikiLeaks that were lifted from the Democratic National Committee servers, Trump said he was surprised how quickly the Democratic nominee fired Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D.-Fla.) after the emails betrayed the lengths that the DNC staff went to sabotage the candidacy of Sanders and boost the candidacy of the former first lady. When Sanders and his supporters complained that the supposedly neutral DNC was colluding with Clinton, their charges were dismissed and ridiculed–until they were proven true by the electronic correspondence between staffers.
“Debbie Wasserman Schultz, you’re fired, get out of here,” said Trump of her treatment by Clinton, who fired her for rigging the nomination process in favor of Clinton.
It was disloyal to DWS, he said.
The GOP nominee kept coming back to the topic of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, marking out the contrast between his position and Clinton’s.
The New York senator had told audiences that if she is president, she will defend our NATO allies at any and all costs, he said.
But, he said this ignores two important concerns. First, members of NATO are stiffing the United States when it comes to their contributions to the military alliance at the level of their treaty commitment–and some do not contribute at all.
“I think NATO is great, but five out of 28 countries are not paying their way,” he said.
The second concern, is one that really stirred Trump up as he alluded to the increased tensions between NATO members and Russia. “We’re going to be in World War III for people, who aren’t paying?”
Trump said our arrangement with Japan was worse than America’s deal with NATO, in that deal America is obligated to defend Japan if Japan is attacked, but Japan has no obligation to help defend America.
Despite the chemistry between the two candidates, the two men are now going their separate ways to other states Obama carried in 2008 and 2012.
Trump left Scranton for Toledo, Ohio and his running mate Waukesha, Wisconsin for Wednesday night rallies and Pence then goes to Grand Rapid, Michigan Thursday.