President Donald Trump tells voters a vote for Rick Saccone is a ‘vote for us’ in a visit to Western Pennsylvania |
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Wesley Venteicher
Republican congressional candidate Rick Saccone speaks during a rally with President Trump at Pittsburgh International Airport on March 10, 2018.

President Trump returned to Western Pennsylvania on Saturday to whip up a partisan crowd to support congressional candidate Rick Saccone, revisiting reliable campaign themes — promising to build a wall, toughen up on drug dealers, make progress in North Korea and decrease trade deficits.

Trump announced what he said would be a new campaign slogan for 2020 — “Keep America Great,” saying he had already made America great again. He discussed the tax cuts bill he signed, recent job growth and his order to implement tariffs on steel and aluminum for most U.S. trading partners.

“The task for all of us, for everyone here tonight, is to make sure that this great American comeback continues, full speed ahead,” Trump said.

Saccone will help him do it, Trump told the crowd of about 5,000 people inside an Atlantic Aviation hangar at Pittsburgh International Airport. His rally speech lasted more than an hour.

Saccone, 60, a state representative from Elizabeth, is campaigning against Democrat Conor Lamb, 33, a former federal prosecutor from Mt. Lebanon. They face off Tuesday in a special election for Southwestern Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District.

Trump touched on the national attention the race has received, with polls showing a few percentage points between the two candidates despite Trump’s winning the district — which includes parts of Allegheny, Washington, Westmoreland and Greene counties — by 19 percentage points in 2016.

“The world is watching,” he said to Saccone, who joined him on stage. “I hate to put this pressure on you, Rick, but they’re all watching.”

Saccone spoke briefly at the end, encouraging voters to help him “close the deal.”

Trump talked trade on the heels of signing orders Thursday imposing tariffs of 25 percent on steel imports and 10 percent on aluminum imports from most countries, a move he said would help regrow those industries in the United States.

“We are saving steel, and a lot of steel mills are now opening up because of what I did,” Trump said.

He said the United States has a trade deficit of $100 billion with the European Union, “because we have stupid politicians doing stupid things.”

He criticized Ronald Reagan on trade, referring to him as a “great cheerleader for the country but not great on the trade,” and said the United States “used to be a nation of tariffs.” Trump attacked the foreign policy of Barack Obama and George W. Bush, saying his predecessors should have done more to prevent North Korea from becoming a threat to the United States.

Trump bashed the media, saying reporters hadn’t given him enough credit for agreeing to sit down for talks with North Korea that he said would include denuclearization. A potential meeting with Kim Jong-un was announced last week.

“I may leave fast, or we may sit down and make the greatest deal for the world,” he said.

Trump praised Saccone’s experience serving in the Air Force in South Korea in the early 1990s, saying Saccone had given him advice on the subject he had not heard from other advisers.

Trump said he wants Congress to end family-based migration and cancel the visa lottery.

He criticized Democrats for sanctuary cities that shield undocumented immigrants, saying he was calling on Congress to stop sending federal grants to cities with such policies.

“The Democrats are the party of sanctuary cities,” Trump said. “Explain that one. They like to protect criminals. They like to protect MS-13.”

The discussion of gang members led to talk of drug dealers, which quickly led to chants of “build that wall,” from the crowd.

Trump said the only way to solve the nation’s drug problem is through toughness. He talked about China and Singapore, saying representatives of the countries told him they have death penalties for drug dealers. Trump called for “at a minimum … long tough sentences,” for dealers.

He said he liked coming to Pennsylvania, which was a key to his 2016 victory. He visited in January, mentioning Saccone briefly while talking about tax reform and the economy.

Saccone has campaigned as a candidate who would carry out Trump’s agenda.

Trump repeated the message that outside groups have promoted with ad campaigns topping $10 million in the race, attempting to tie Lamb to Nancy Pelosi despite Lamb’s saying he wouldn’t vote for Pelosi to lead House Democrats.

Lamb has avoided criticizing Trump in the race, saying he would work with him on areas where the two could find agreement on topics important to the district.

“There’s no way he’s ever voting for me,” Trump said of Lamb. “Rick is going to vote for us all the time. All the time.”

Wes Venteicher is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-380-5676, [email protected] or via Twitter @wesventeicher.

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