POTTER TOWNSHIP — From the onset of President Donald J. Trump's appearance in Beaver County Tuesday, it was apparent his visit to western Pennsylvania was about more than his energy policy.

Trump, who flipped Pennsylvania to Republican red in 2016 for the first time since Ronald Reagan in 1988, opened his speech from a building at the under-construction Royal Dutch Shell cracker plant praising the state that helped carry him to an election upset three years ago. Trump carried Pennsylvania by fewer than 50,000 votes.

"It's great to be back in the incredible commonwealth of Pennsylvania," Trump said to the crowd of fluorescent green-and-orange-clad union workers. "This is my 13th visit to Pennsylvania during my administration, which is more than any other president to this point in the term and I really love Pennsylvania."

The president, who was originally set to visit Beaver County last week but had to schedule in the wake of mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, also noted he went to school at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of business.

"We love this state and I love the unions and I love the workers," Trump said.

His speech from the podium was to focus mainly on energy — and what better backdrop than the $6 billion facility which features thousands of workers (and will translate into 600 permanent jobs) and the world's largest crane. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, the former governor of Texas and presidential candidate, and EPA Administrator Andrew R. Wheeler also traveled with the president to western Pennsylvania and were in the crowd for his speech. They, however, did not talk to the crowd, instead only meeting with members of the news media afterwards while Trump toured the facility.

"Pennsylvania has the best numbers they've ever had in the history of this state, and that's for a very good reason," Trump said. "And you know what that reason is? Hello."

The president made some swipes, mostly reserved for his massive rallies, against former President Barack Obama, Trump's 2016 presidential challenger Hillary Clinton, as well as the "fake news," emoluments and the Academy Awards ("That used to be second after the Super Bowl and then all of a sudden it's just another show because people got tired of people getting up and making fools of themselves and disrespecting the people in this room and the people who won the election in 2016.")

The Democratic primary frontrunners Joe Biden, the former vice president, and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren didn't escape chiding from the president during his hour-plus speech.

Polls from Politico/Morning Consult released Tuesday covering Democratic primary voters nationwide and in early primary states have Biden 13 and 17 percentage points, respectively, ahead of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, with Warren in third.

"She's staging a comeback on 'Sleepy Joe,'" Trump said in reference to Biden, also referring to Warren by his nickname for her, "Pocahontas."

"I don't know who is going to win," Trump continued. "We'll have to hit Pocahontas very hard again if she does win. She's staging a little bit of a comeback. What a group. 'Pocahontas' and 'Sleepy Joe.' I don't think they give a damn about western Pennsylvania, do you? I don't think so."


Digital editor

Pete Sirianni is the News' digital editor. Previously, he worked at The Bradford (Pa.) Era. Sirianni is a 2016 IUP graduate, earning a degree in journalism and public relations. Contact him at psirianni@ncnewsonline.com or on Twitter at @PeterSirianni.

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