LATROBE, Pa. (KDKA/AP) — President Donald Trump returned to western Pennsylvania for the first time since 2019 on Thursday.

The president arrived for a campaign event at Latrobe’s Arnold Palmer Regional Airport in front of a packed crowd. Hundreds of people, including U.S. Representative Guy Reschenthaler and congressional candidate Sean Parnell, were in attendance.

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

The president spoke for more than 1 hour and 30 minutes, touching on mail-in voting, jobs, the economy, the coronavirus, the Second Amendment, the removal of statues and his “law and order” message. He also added that he accepted the endorsement from the Boilermakers Local Lodge 154 in Pittsburgh.

President Trump gave shoutouts to Rep. Reschenthaler and former U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta — who now heads the Pennsylvania GOP delegation. Pres. Trump also endorsed Parnell, who is running against U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb.

“Something special — a real hero, a real tough guy — he’ll never let you down,” Trump said of Parnell.

The president was also critical of Governor Tom Wolf’s coronavirus shutdown orders, saying, “You have to open the Commonwealth.” He advocated for the restrictions to be lifted.

“You have a governor that has you shut down. And almost all states are open,” Trump said.

President Trump honed the “law and order” message he intends to wield against his Democratic rival, Joe Biden, with two months to go until Election Day, stepping up attacks that his campaign believes are resonating with battleground state voters.

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

“Biden’s plan is to appease the domestic terrorists and my plan is to arrest them and prosecute them,” Trump declared in a state that flipped in his favor in 2016 helping to pave his road to victory.

They believe efforts to paint Biden as weak on crime will help Trump win back suburban voters, and especially women, who supported him in 2016 but have since soured on him.

The rally comes as Trump’s campaign is claiming signs of momentum in Pennsylvania — a longtime Democratic stronghold that Trump won by less than 45,000 votes in 2016. Polls show Trump and his Democratic rival, Joe Biden, are closely matched.

Trump campaign officials say the president is in a better position in Pennsylvania than he was in 2016, citing Democrats’ shrinking voter registration advantage. This time, they believe their get-out-the-vote operation will result in better turnout among working-class rural voters, along with improved margins among African Americans, Latinos and union supporters.

In 2016, Trump carried Westmoreland County with 64 percent of the vote. This year, local Republicans think Pres. Trump can do even better.

“In 61 days from now, we’re going to win the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and we are going to win four more years in the White House,” Trump said.

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On Monday, Biden visited Pittsburgh to make a campaign pitch to the region. Both Pres. Trump and Biden will commemorate the 19th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks in rural Pennsylvania where one of the hijacked planes crashed in a field.

The rally attendees at Arnold Palmer Regional Aiport had to register for the event online and agree to a statement that said they understand the risks related to coronavirus in attending a public event and will not hold the Trump administration or the airport liable for any illness or injury.

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Organizers handed out masks and sanitizer. But generally, people did not wear masks or follow social distancing guidelines. Pennsylvania currently restricts indoor gatherings to 25 people and outdoor events to 250 to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Trump told the crowd that he is “all for” wearing masks, but he mocked Biden for wearing one so often.

“Did you ever see a man who likes a mask as much as him?” he asked, proclaiming that “it gives him a feeling of security.”

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Shelby Cassesse