In Scranton, Trump says talks economy, impeachment – and that election thing

President Donald Trump (Capital-Star file)

In a stop in former Vice President Joe Biden’s hometown Thursday, President Donald Trump bragged about the economy, reflected on impeachment and appraised the state of the Democratic primary race.

During a Fox News Town Hall in Scranton, the Republican president made the case for re-election in a state that he carried by less than a percentage point in 2016.

Trump’s appearance at Scranton Cultural Center at the Masonic Temple was his second visit to a key 2020 battleground state since last December and his first in the Keystone State since his impeachment acquittal by the U.S. Senate in January.

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As of last month, Trump’s approval rating in Pennsylvania is nearly an even split with 48 percent approving and 49 percent disapproving, according to Morning Consult data

During the town hall, Trump faced difficult questions from undecided voters and devout supporters who raised concerns about how to unite a divided country. 

“Success,” Trump responded, touting the economic success of his administration, which achieved a record-high just last month

Trump fought off criticism from Fox News anchors Martha Macallum and Brett Baier, who asked him about the economy’s slump since the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

“Even though it’s down 10 or 11 percent, it’s still the highest it’s ever been, by far,” Trump said. 

As of Thursday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped more than 900 points.

Trump then turned his attention to Pennsylvania voters, claiming that Lackawanna County was experiencing its lowest unemployment rate ever. 

The county currently has an unemployment rate of 5.5 percent, higher than the state average of 4.5 percent, according to January data from the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry. 

In 2000, unemployment rates in the county were 4.9 percent, rising slightly in the mid-2000s before spiking to 9.5 percent in 2010, following the Great Recession. Since then, the rate has dropped slowly, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics

The discussion then turned to healthcare, an area where Trump admitted not failure, but less success than he would like. 

“Republicans have failed to come up with an alternative plan to Obamacare. How do you plan to rally the Republicans around a plan and what would be included in that?” one audience member asked.

“It’s the one area where I haven’t been able to say what a great job we’ve done,” Trump said. “It’s not great healthcare, but we’re managing it fantastically.” 

Trump couldn’t answer the second part of the question about what would fill the Affordable Care Act’s shoes, but said that Republicans would need to win back the House before tackling the issue.

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., who arrived via Air Force One with the president, welcomed Trump’s visit to Pennsylvania earlier in the day, touting the president’s successes in a statement. 

“His [Trump’s] policies and priorities have given Pennsylvanians the strongest economy in decades,” Toomey said, “almost 200 new federal judges that respect the rule of law, and a foreign policy that is based on keeping our country safe and holding hostile governments, like Iran, accountable for their actions.”

Cassie Miller
A native Pennsylvanian, Cassie Miller worked for various publications across the Midstate before joining the team at the Pennsylvania Capital-Star. In her previous roles, she has covered everything from local sports to the financial services industry. Miller has an extensive background in magazine writing, editing and design. She is a graduate of Penn State University where she served as the campus newspaper’s photo editor. She is currently pursuing her master’s degree in professional journalism at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. In addition to her role at the Capital-Star, Miller enjoys working on her independent zines, Dead Air and Infrared.