Lou Barletta spoke for just about four minutes Thursday night.
President Donald J. Trump spoke for the better part of 75 minutes.
Trump’s appearance at the Mohegan Sun Arena might have been a rally in support of Barletta’s senatorial aspirations, but let’s be honest — it wasn’t Barletta the crowd came to see. Not really.
Don’t misunderstand me here. The former Hazleton mayor was on friendly home turf.
He was among thousands of people who will very likely vote for him. They chanted “Looooooou” whenever the president invoked Barletta’s name. They applauded his brief remarks with genuine gusto.
Some wore T-shirts that read only “Lou,” with a facsimile of his trademark white grin beneath. Many of them even waved Barletta campaign signs.
But a look around the arena seemed to reveal far more people wearing, waving and carrying Trump apparel, signs and memorabilia.
Lou Barletta is running for U.S. Senate in 2018.
Many in the audience made it clear they want Trump to run for re-election in 2020. And that’s really what Thursday night was.
Yes, the most powerful man in America came to Pennsylvania to boost a candidate whose victory in this key swing state would help increase GOP’s control of the upper chamber, and serve as an important symbolic win in a state with two big blue cities at either end.
Sure, Trump wants Barletta to win. I wouldn’t go as far as saying the president needs Barletta to win — it’s far too early for that — but he sure as heck gains nothing if the man he dubbed “Sleeping Bob” Casey retains the seat.
(Take note, readers, the Scranton Democrat’s new presidential nickname was apparently born Thursday night during Trump’s visit to what he called “Wilkes-BARR.”)
And surely Trump would like to see the other Republican contenders who received presidential shout-outs win their contests too: Gubernatorial aspirant Scott Wagner, 8th Congressional District candidate John Chrin, 9th District candidate Dan Meuser and incumbent Congressman Tom Marino, who will be looking to fend off a challenger in what will be the 12th District.
In his 70-plus minutes of speaking, Trump did exactly what he needed to do on behalf of these candidates, particularly the guest of honor, Barletta.
He mentioned their names. He told the audience to go out and vote Republican. He warned the audience that continuing his administration’s agenda rides heavily on quashing any blue wave this November.
In the case of Wagner and Barletta, Trump also made sure to seal the deal with criticism of their respective opponents, especially Casey.
“Sleeping Bob,” the president clearly indicated, is boring and obstructionist.
Then he stopped.
“Bob Casey isn’t an obstructionist, he’s worse,” the president said.
Casey, Trump said, follows the orders of California Rep. Maxine Waters — “their new star,” adding that “she is so low IQ” — and New York Rep. Chuck Schumer.
Of any Democrats currently in office, those names are sure to generate anger and loathing in the hearts of Republicans. The crowd responded in kind.
Casey, the president said, invoking more fears, wants to eliminate U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement (ICE) and doesn’t mind the MS-13 gang “slicers” coming into America.
The message, again, resonated.
“We need Lou Barletta. He’s tough,” Trump said, adding: “I hear Bob Casey is afraid to debate Lou Barletta. Is that true? I want to watch that debate.”
Donald Trump spent more time Thursday night talking about Bob Casey than about Lou Barletta.
Donald Trump may well have spent more time talking about tea with the Queen of England Thursday night than he did about Lou Barletta.
Lou Barletta is well known in Northeastern Pennsylvania. There was nothing Trump was going to tell this audience about Barletta that they don’t already know.
It is, perhaps, worth asking whether Trump might have wanted to say a bit more about Barletta to those TV audiences elsewhere in Pennsylvania who don’t know Lou as well, but what he needed most to do was convince anyone on the fence that Casey is liberal and scary.
If more of them end up voting for Casey anyway — at this point he still has a hefty lead in polls and fundraising, but Trump is living proof of how wrong polls can be — it wasn’t for lack of trying on the president’s part.
Most of all, the president talked about himself and his accomplishments, a lot. The crowd loved it.
And he told them what they probably wanted most to hear.
“Make America Great Again will morph into Keep America Great in the next election,” Trump said, referencing 2020.
Whatever happens in November, Thursday was Trump’s night, and the faithful wouldn’t have it any other way.