PITTSBURGH — Republican front-runner Donald J. Trump, at a raucous rally in Downtown Pittsburgh Wednesday, promised to “bring back coal and bring back steel.” And also Joe Paterno.
“How’s Joe Paterno? Are we going to bring that back?” Trump asked, in an apparent reference to the statue of the legendary coach taken down after the school’s sex scandal. Regardless, the comment drew rousing cheers.
Paterno, of course, died in 2012.
Basically, Trump says, if he’s elected president, America is going to do a lot more winning. “We’re going to win with healthcare, we’re going to win with our borders, we’re going to build a wall and Mexico’s going to pay for it,” Trump said, ticking off a list of things he sees wrong with the country.
“We’re going to keep winning.”
Trump, who’s never been accused of not knowing his audience, claimed Steelers quarterback “Big Ben” Roethlisberger “is a friend of mine,” and said he expected the team to do well this year; the crowd responded as expected.
The Republican front-runner hewed closely to his stump speech, railing against “dishonest” politicians, “terrible” trade deals, and “Lyin’ Ted Cruz.” The crowd yelled “traitors!” at the reporters in the rear of the convention center after Trump said the media were “worse than politicians.”
Outside the rally, a large crowd gathered, with Black Lives Matters protesters clashing with Trump’s fans. There was some pushing by Pittsburgh police.
Inside, Trump complained about “rigged Republican system,” noting that the Democratic system was just as bad, took shots at Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, and even threw in a shout-out to Pennsylvania’s neighbor: “I love West Virginia!”
Trump also proclaimed he expects “to do fantastically with women.”
Trump’s appearance at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, his first stop in Pittsburgh of the 2016 campaign, was the second of two events. He taped a segment with Fox News’ Sean Hannity at Soldiers and Sailors Hall in the city’s Oakland neighborhood before arriving to a crowd of thousands at the convention center.
“You’re going to remember this evening and when you vote, it’s going to be the most important vote, you ever cast at any time in your life,” Trump told the audience. “We are going to make America great again.”
Trump’s Pittsburgh appearances disrupted traffic and drew protests across the city. One protester was escorted out of the convention center, with Trump saying he was “going home to mommy.”
There were even scattered reports of pepper spray being used on a crowd outside the convention center after the rally concluded. But Reddit-fueled rumors of groups planning to open-carry guns to ward off unwanted protesters proved false.
Trump is the third major presidential candidate to visit Pittsburgh in 2016; Bernie Sanders addressed a crowd at the same convention center on March 31, and Hillary Clinton spoke at Carnegie Mellon University last week.
Pennsylvania’s primary is April 26. An April 10 Fox News poll has Trump ahead of his Republican rivals by some 20 points.