Pundits and pollsters say the bottom may be falling out of Donald Trump’s White House run, but diehard supporters in the western Pennsylvania city of Johnstown strongly disagree. A few hours’ drive north and west from liberal Washington, Johnstown — the beating heart of Trump Country –is a world away from the US capital. Industry in the region has been on the decline for decades. Smoke stacks from the steel plants have been quiet for years and large parts of its downtown are deserted.
There are few jobs remaining from the steel, coal and garment industries that once kept the local economy humming. Many here say long-awaited deliverance has come in the person of Trump, the billionaire businessman who has promised to make Johnstown great again.
Trump’s campaign has stalled after lackluster performances at all three presidential debates with Democratic rival Hillary Clinton. It also has been hurt because of the scandal over his alleged groping of women, and the furor over his unprecedented suggestion that he might not accept the outcome of the election.
Watch| Presidential Debate: Trump May Not Accept Election Results
But inhabitants of this part of Pennsylvania — including several thousand supporters who thronged the local convention center for a rally yesterday — pay little heed to predictions of the Republican candidate’s demise, lapping up his message of economic resurgence after decades of decline.
“He’s going to bring back businesses to Johnstown,” said a 66-year-old retired secretary who only gave her name as Chris. “He’s going to get the steel mills running again,” she said.
A candidate known for his dystopian descriptions of America’s inner cities or the plight of the economy and military, Trump offers a seductively upbeat vision of how life will be after he moves into the White House.
“Your jobs will come back under a Trump administration. That I can tell you — including your steel, which has been decimated in this area,” he promised his ardent supporters at the rally. “Your incomes will go up under a Trump administration, your taxes will go way, way down,” he said to applause and cheers.
“We will bring prosperity back to Johnstown. We will be putting your miners back to work… all across this city and country.” That message resonates with Chris, who remembers what life was like when Johnstown was still an industrial mecca, before being forsaken by its business leaders and politicians.