LIMA, Ohio—President Donald Trump returned Wednesday to Ohio, the state that foretold his 2016 victory, with a tour of a tank plant, where he praised its revival and told cheering workers “we are rebuilding the American military, we are restoring American manufacturing and we are once again fighting for our great American workers.”
Trump’s visit to Ohio marked his first trip to the state since last year’s midterm election campaign when the state was a bright spot for Republicans in the upper Midwest.
Perhaps no state has better illustrated the re-aligning effects of Trump’s candidacy and presidency than Ohio, where traditionally Democratic-leaning working-class voters have swung heavily toward the GOP.
Trump is expected to make similar trips throughout the year as he seeks to boost enthusiasm.
Trump visited the Lima Army Tank Plant, which had been at risk for closure but is now benefiting from his administration’s investments in defense spending. He’ll also hold a fundraiser for his re-election campaign in Canton.
In this heavy manufacturing state, Trump cited efforts he’s taken to negotiate new trade agreements and enact tariffs to protect steel manufacturers. He described how his administration has confronted China on its trading practices because the days of stealing American jobs and ideas have come to an end.
“He’s a fighter,” said Ohio GOP Chair Jane Timken, “and that’s one of the reasons why if you look at the Mahoning Valley, that’s become a Republican portion of the state.”
The Republican National Committee, in laying the groundwork for the Trump campaign’s field program, has maintained a constant presence in Ohio since 2012. Former RNC co-chair Bob Paduchik, who ran Trump’s 2016 effort in the state, is repeating his role.
Trump’s visit comes days after he railed against the closure of a General Motors plant in Lordstown, a significant contributor to the economy in the eastern part of the state. The plant, which produced Chevy Cruze sedans, closed earlier this month despite bipartisan pressure on the automaker, which claimed it was responding to consumer demand for larger vehicle types.
Trump said General Motors should re-open the plant or sell it to somebody who wants it. “Get it open now, don’t wait,” he said.
Trump allies acknowledged that he may be limited in what he can accomplish for the Lordstown plant, but they said his vocal advocacy signaled to his supporters in the area that he is fighting on their behalf.
On Sunday, Trump criticized a local union leader’s handling of the closure after the leader was quoted on Fox News discussing the episode and after the president had a phone conversation with GM CEO Mary Barra. “Democrat UAW Local 1112 President David Green ought to get his act together and produce,” Trump said. He later tweeted of his conversation with Barra, “She blamed the UAW Union,” though the company disputed the president’s account.