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Trump To Take His Rally To Northeast Pennsylvania

NOEL KING, HOST:

President Trump will be in northeastern Pennsylvania tonight to talk to an audience that helped him win the 2016 election. Republicans in Wilkes-Barre say their support of the president is unwavering. Bobby Allyn of member station WHYY has the story.

BOBBY ALLYN, BYLINE: The president is visiting this working-class valley community overlooked by the Pocono Mountains to endorse Lou Barletta. Former local mayor and currently U.S. Representative, Barletta is trying to unseat Democratic Senator Bob Casey. Casey has a much larger campaign war chest, and the polls are on his side. But to that, here's a response from longtime Wilkes-Barre Republican activist Lynette Villano.

LYNETTE VILLANO: Are they the same polls that said that Hillary was going to win?

ALLYN: In the 2016 primary, Luzerne County Republicans had the highest Trump voting percentage in the state. In the view of Villano, who was a Trump delegate, Wilkes-Barre helped launch Trump to the White House.

VILLANO: We got Donald Trump elected. Now we need to get the people elected that are going to go there to support his agenda.

ALLYN: In this usually quiet town of 40,000, Trump's visit is all the buzz. And skepticism of voter polling and the media's treatment of Trump is heard on almost every corner. On a front-page story in the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader, Barletta is quoted as saying, don't trust the, quote, "political experts."

It's a message that resonates from parts of Wilkes-Barre to the outskirts of northeastern Pennsylvania, like at Maggie's Tavern. It's a biker bar and a gathering spot for Trump supporters. Standing out front, a forest green minivan drives up. Behind the wheel is Bob Cassaro. He's a retired construction worker and says the press is too hard on Trump.

BOB CASSARO: Bunch of propaganda stuff, you know what I'm saying? Everybody's trying to put him down. Leave him alone. Let him do his thing. That's what I'm thinking.

ALLYN: The issue closest to Cassaro's heart is border security. He says he's rooting for a border wall.

CASSARO: You know, we got enough of them over here already.

ALLYN: Who's them? What do you mean?

CASSARO: The import people, you know? They're working for nothing under the tables and stuff. They're taking away our jobs, our money.

ALLYN: Cassaro and his friend George Bobchick met a decade ago through a local riding club. Bobchick is a Navy veteran and a former trucker.

GEORGE BOBCHICK: I think us in Pennsylvania, we're kind of small-town compared to the big cities. You got a problem on the East Coast, you got a problem on the West Coast, of course, California. The people in between, for the most part, they understand President Trump.

ALLYN: Not far from here, I find Jeremy Landis, a 33-year-old appliance repairman who says he voted for Trump. Landis says the working-class vote was underrated in 2016 and will likely be underrated in the midterms.

JEREMY LANDIS: Because we're silent. Because I'm too busy working and worrying about my everyday life to worry about politics, so you might not hear from me about it until it's time.

ALLYN: Later today, though, there's another person who wants his voice heard, protest organizer Joe Biscotto.

JOE BISCOTTO: The coal mines are gone. The dress factories are gone.

ALLYN: He says the president misleads residents into thinking those industries that once made Wilkes-Barre prosper will one day come back.

BISCOTTO: Donald Trump is not the champion of the working man. He never has been. He's done nothing but screw the working man his entire career. Now we just want to make people aware of that.

ALLYN: Biscotto says he's expecting Trump opponents to demonstrate to show not everyone in this former mining town believes in Trump. For NPR News, I'm Bobby Allyn in Wilkes-Barre. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.