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In Hershey, Trump looks to keep Pa. red as impeachment vote nears

Logan Hullinger
York Dispatch

President Donald Trump on Tuesday gave a lengthy speech at Hershey’s Giant Center aimed at rallying his base just hours after House Democrats introduced two articles of impeachment against him.

The speech, lasting more than an hour, was preceded by remarks from Vice President Mike Pence and prominent Republican figures in Pennsylvania. That included state Sen. Kristin Phillips-Hill, R-York Township.

“Pennsylvania, you had the single best year that you’ve ever had in the history of our country,” Trump said, referencing the state’s unemployment rate, which this year dropped to as low as 3.8%.

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Trump stuck to his typical campaign talking points in his plea to voters in the state that Trump carried in 2016 by less than a percentage point and is expected to be a key player in 2020.

Those talking points heavily emphasized the country’s economy, national security and trade policies. They were paired with remarks specific to the Keystone State, mostly touching on natural gas, oil and steel production.

State Senator Kristin Phillips-Hill speaks at President Donald Trump's "Keep America Great" rally at the Giant Center in Hershey Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2019. Bill Kalina photo

Impeachment: Inside the nearly full venue, an explosive crowd proved to be receptive. Outside, however, hundreds of protesters stood in the rain calling for Trump's impeachment.

Two protesters inside the rally were  removed by security after causing disruptions. The crowd erupted in cheers as Trump instructed them to be kicked out.

The president spent much of his time addressing the ongoing impeachment process. Just hours before he took the stage, House Democrats introduced two articles of impeachment against him: Obstruction of Congress and abuse of power.

The House Judiciary Committee is expected to take a vote on the matter as early as this week. A floor vote is expected before Christmas.

The impeachment efforts focus on accusations that Trump sought to withhold military aid to Ukraine until that country's president announced it would investigate Hunter Biden, the son of Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden.

“This is the lightest impeachment in the history of our country,” Trump said, adding his thoughts that the articles introduced by Democrats show he did not obstruct justice or commit other crimes of which he has been accused.

USMCA: Tuesday wasn’t all bad news for the president.

House Democrats that day also announced they would support the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, a replacement for the North America Free Trade Agreement that has been in limbo for months.

Trump, along with Pence, made sure to emphasize that the USMCA announcement was a huge victory for the administration.

President Donald Trump gestures toward Vice President Mike Pence as the two appeared together at a "Keep America Great" rally at the Giant Center in Hershey Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2019. Bill Kalina photo

Republicans celebrated the news while also touting the administration's tariffs on some Chinese goods, which the president said has left the Asian power begging for a deal.

Rally: Throughout the rally, the president rarely stuck to one topic for more than 10 minutes before temporarily moving on. He also went on multiple tangents.

The president said that he has been dreaming about Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, quipped about remaining in office for another 29 years and attacked Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner for releasing killers "almost immediately."

But all of the remarks from speakers on Tuesday came with the same tagline: Pennsylvania needs to vote for four more years of Trump.

“Pennsylvania said ‘yes’ to President Donald Trump in 2016, and I know Pennsylvania is going to say ‘yes’ to four more years,” Pence said.

Phillips-Hill echoed the importance of the state sticking with the president. The York County Republican used some of her time on stage to criticize Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf while crediting Trump for the state’s budget surplus.

"Here in Pennsylvania, we're seeing the dividends of the Trump economy," Phillips-Hill said.

U.S. Congressmen Lloyd Smucker, left, and Scott Perry take the stage with President Donald Trump, right, at a "Keep America Great" rally at the Giant Center in Hershey Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2019. Bill Kalina photo

Perry: Hershey, located in Dauphin County, lies in the state's 10th Congressional District.

Rep. Scott Perry, R-Carroll Township, has represented the district for four terms and has been a staunch Trump supporter. Yet he wasn’t given a chance to speak during the rally, unlike U.S. Rep. Dan Meuser, a Republican serving the state’s 9th District.

Perry was, however, briefly welcomed on stage to receive the president's praise along with along with Rep. Lloyd Smucker, R-Lancaster, and other House Republicans representing Pennsylvania.

Perry is preparing to defend his seat in 2020. He has two potential Democratic opponents: state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale and Tom Brier, a Hershey-based author and attorney. He also faces a primary challenge from Republican Bobby Jeffries.

Dauphin, the largest county in the district, is expected to be a key player in the House race. It has tilted liberal in the past few years, and, in 2018, Democratic challenger George Scott beat out Perry there with 54% of the vote.

— Logan Hullinger can be reached at lhullinger@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @LoganHullYD.