Trump supporters stand by their candidate as U.S. president campaigns in Pennsylvania

It was a three-hour drive, but Anthony Fonseca wasn’t missing Donald Trump’s rally outside Lancaster, Pa., Monday afternoon.

Fonseca lives in New York City, but made the trip with his mother and daughter.

“Freedom in America is on the line,” Fonseca said. “We wanted to support Donald Trump and everything he’s about.”

Thousands of Trump supporters braved a light rain at Lancaster’s airport, just north of the city, where the rally was held. It was one of three rallies for the U.S. president in Pennsylvania Monday as he barnstormed across the state in a last-ditch effort to hold on to the state’s 20 electoral college votes.

Susan Leeming was another attendee. Claiming to have been a lifelong Democrat until Donald Trump went into politics, she says she took the day off work for the rally.

The Nov. 3 U.S. election, she says, is the most important thing going on in the country.

“I’m happy to be here,” Leeming said. “This is my second rally and I pray to God he wins.”

Audra King, meanwhile, admits that the last four years have been so tumultuous that she’s considered not supporting Trump. The retired veteran says she voted for Barack Obama in the past, but won’t support his former vice-president.

“The Democrats didn’t really give us an option,” King said. “If they’d had someone more suitable, I probably would have switched my vote.”

King’s husband, Merv, says his vote is solidly behind the Republican candidate.

“Trump’s a businessman,” Merv said. “He gets things done. Biden’s been there for 47 years. What’s he done? Nothing.”

Both outside and inside, it was shoulder-to-shoulder at the event. About half the crowd at the rally was wearing masks, but there was no physical distancing. Upon arriving, people were put into a holding area to wait for screening.

Pennsylvania’s governor has criticized the Trump campaign for holding events that violate his state’s public health guidelines. In a statement Sept. 25, Gov. Tom Wolf called Trump’s rallies dangerous and manipulative.

“It is dangerous and disappointing that the president continues to ignore science and his own health advisors while putting the lives of those who support him at risk,” the statement reads.

The president, meanwhile, bashed the governor during one of his rallies Monday. Speaking in Allentown, Trump claimed Wolf tried to prevent the event from happening, and appeared to threaten retaliation in the future.

“I’ll remember it, Tom,” Trump told the crowd. “I’m going to remember it, Tom. ‘Hello, Mr. President, this is Governor Wolf, I need help.’ You know what? These people are bad.”

Nevertheless, COVID-19 numbers are surging in Pennsylvania. The state reported 1,104 new cases Monday, an increase of 31 per cent compared a week ago. The daily average has more than doubled over the last week from 452 to 931, according to the state’s department of health.

Pennsylvania’s health secretary, Dr. Rachel Levine, says the rate of positive tests has jumped from 4.2 per cent to 5 per cent in a week and that she does expect the number of hospitalizations to increase.

But to a group of four men arriving at Monday’s Trump rally, the danger, they insisted, is overblown. They argued that the Trump administration has done everything possible to fight the pandemic, repeating Trump’s criticism of Pennsylvania’s governor for “locking down” the state.

“I think it’s just a bad flu,” said one man. “I don’t think you can do much better.”

“You can’t shut down the state,” said another man.

“You can’t shut down the country. You’ve got to keep America open.”

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