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'I like my freedom': Thousands attend Trump rally in Pa.

The Philadelphia Inquirer — By Sean Collins Walsh and Andrew Seidman The Philadelphia Inquirer

Oct. 13-- JOHNSTOWN, Pa.-President Donald Trump returned to Pennsylvania on Tuesday night with a rally in this former industrial hub, marking his second campaign trip since he was infected and hospitalized with the coronavirus.

"This election is a simple choice," Trump told a crowd of thousands. "If Biden wins, China wins. All these other countries win. We get ripped off by everybody. If we win, you win, Pennsylvania wins, and America wins. Very simple.

"For years the selfish and corrupt political class betrayed the people of Pennsylvania," Trump said. "Career politicians like Joe Biden lied to you."

Trump held a rally in Florida on Monday evening, hours after his doctor said the president had tested negative for COVID-19 on "consecutive days" and was "not infectious to others." Some medical experts questioned the latter conclusion, saying the type of test Trump took doesn't show whether those who have contracted the virus should continue isolating.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says people with mild to moderate COVID-19 cases should quarantine for up to 10 days after symptom onset-and that in severe cases, people can remain infectious even longer. Trump's doctor said Saturday that the president had met the 10-day threshold, but the White House has not disclosed the severity of his symptoms.

Trump supporters were unfazed by his health.

Thousands of people lined up outside the John Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport hours before the president's arrival. Almost all wore masks on the way into the event, but many took them off once reaching their seats, which were arranged without social distancing.

Laureen Coy, of Indiana, Pennsylvania, said she wasn't afraid of the coronavirus because of her religious beliefs.

"I believe you're either in faith or you're in fear, and you can't be in both," said Coy, 53, who wasn't wearing a mask at the outdoor event. "So I'm in faith."

Coy said the top reasons she supports Trump are his efforts to protect religious liberties and his opposition to abortion. "He is keeping God in our country," she said.

Beth Custer, of Seward, said she voted for President Barack Obama before backing Trump in 2016.

"I just know what's going on with the left right now, and it's not good," said Custer, 52, who was not wearing a mask. "I like my freedom. I like my guns. I like our rights. I don't like wearing these masks and all this (coronavirus) BS; kids can't go to school."

"A lot of people are waking up now," said Custer, a state employee and union member. "They've been quiet too long, and we're just losing our freedoms one by one."

Andrew Maul, 52, said he supports Trump because of his non-interventionist approach to foreign policy.

"I'm a traditional Catholic, I value human life, and I think a lot of this warfare has been unjust over the past few decades," said Maul, who is active in local Republican politics in Pittsburgh. Trump, he said, "hasn't been dropping bombs like Obama and getting us into additional wars or meddling in Libya."

Maul added that he doesn't believe Trump has had a flawless presidency and is willing to criticize his missteps. But Maul said he wanted to see Trump speak in person and will vote for him this year because he is "anti-establishment."

"I don't worship the man. I applaud the good things he does. I criticize the bad things," Maul said.

Trump's rally comes as he tries to persuade voters he's not only recovered from the virus but is ready to move the country past the pandemic-even as coronavirus cases are increasing in Pennsylvania and scores of other states.

Both parties see Pennsylvania as a crucial battleground state that could well prove decisive in the Electoral College. Joe Biden, the former vice president, has consistently led Trump in polls of Pennsylvania voters, and in recent weeks both candidates have focused on white working-class voters in more rural parts of the state. Surveys show Trump's support among rural voters in areas like Johnstown has softened since they helped propel him to victory in 2016.

Biden, during a visit to Johnstown last month, told supporters his upbringing in Scranton helped him understand their worldview and vowed to "build an economy that works for everyone."

In the past week, Biden has also campaigned in Gettysburg and Erie, and is set to participate in a town hall in Philadelphia on Thursday. Democratic elected officials are holding "Ballots for Biden" events this week across Pennsylvania as they try to bring attention to the state's new vote-by-mail system.

Trump campaigned outside Harrisburg shortly before he tested positive for the virus, and previously made several trips to southwestern Pennsylvania. And Vice President Mike Pence will be in Reading for a campaign rally Saturday.

In Washington on Tuesday, the GOP-led Senate Judiciary Committee continued to hold confirmation hearings for Judge Amy Coney Barrett, Trump's nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court. Pennsylvania Democrats accused Trump of rushing the nomination so that Barrett, a conservative, would be on the bench by the time the court hears arguments on a lawsuit that seeks to invalidate the Affordable Care Act.

Democrats, citing Barrett's past statements, warn that she would vote to strike down the health care law known as Obamacare. U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., said "it would be nice" if Trump "would explain to the people of Johnstown and Cambria County" how he's going to preserve their health care and protect those with preexisting conditions.

"He's had four years but there's still no health care plan," Casey said.

Also Tuesday night, Trump's daughter-in-law Lara Trump and Ric Grenell, the former acting director of national intelligence, are scheduled to campaign in Newtown Square for a "Trump Pride" event.


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