Donald Trump To Give Trade Speech In Steel Country

Jun 28, 2016
Originally published on June 28, 2016 12:19 pm
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Donald Trump is headed for steel country today. He's going to be talking about trade, and that is nothing new. Back in the primaries, Trump made a bold promise to supporters in Pittsburgh.

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GREENE: It's steel city, and when I'm president, guess what? Steel is coming back to Pittsburgh and a lot of other things are coming back.

GREENE: We're joined now by NPR's Mara Liasson who will talk us through what we might hear from Donald Trump today. Mara, good morning.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Good morning.

GREENE: So Trump has been criticized for making bold, bold claims and not always backing them up. His campaign is saying now this is going to be a policy speech today. Is this - is this what we're going to start to hear, how he might back up a promise like that?

LIASSON: Well, he says he's going to talk about trade. He says he's also going to talk about Hillary Clinton and trade. Trump has some key arguments on trade against Hillary Clinton. He points out often that Bill Clinton passed NAFTA and that she was for that and also that she was for the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade and deal before she was against it.

Yesterday, Hillary Clinton was also in Ohio, and in acknowledgement of how big trade deals loom in this election as a focus for angry populism and as an explanation for wage stagnation she reminded the crowd of her promise to appoint a new trade prosecutor. And she also promised to double the enforcement staff of the U.S. trade representative's office. That's a pretty bureaucratic solution compared to Trump's more emotionally satisfying - Clinton would say unrealistic - promise to bring all those manufacturing jobs back.

GREENE: Well, that - I mean, the question of realistic versus satisfying emotionally, whether those things are both true - I mean, it really does come down to trade. And essentially the argument from Trump is that, I mean, that trade policies right now are keeping industries like steel from ever coming back.

LIASSON: That's right.

GREENE: Well, so he's campaigning in western Pennsylvania and just across the border in Ohio tonight. I mean, talk broadly about why this part of the country is so important for him.

LIASSON: Ohio and Pennsylvania are two states that Trump points out over and over again that he is tied with Clinton, even though he's slipped behind her nationally. And if he's going to close the gap and get on a path to 270 electoral votes, the path probably runs through these two states. One of them, he - is a blue state he has to turn red - Pennsylvania. Another one is a true battleground state - Ohio. And these are two Rust Belt states where people have been hurt by wage stagnation and deindustrialization and they are very receptive to Trump's core message that he will turn back the tide of globalization.

This is how he framed the Brexit vote. He said they took back their country. We'll take back our country. And he says he's going to do that by renegotiating trade deals, by slapping tariffs on Chinese goods. And this is a core promise he makes to voters in these states that factory jobs will come flooding back if he's the president.

GREENE: And, Mara, I mean, he has gotten support from voters in states like, you know, in the Rust Belt. And it's certainly not out of the ordinary for a candidate during a general election as it's getting going to go to states like Pennsylvania and Ohio. But this is sort of notable for Donald Trump, right?

LIASSON: It is notable because he hasn't been going to swing states very much recently. He's traveled to Texas to raise money. He made that big speech laying out the comprehensive argument against Clinton in New York. But he's now focusing more on battleground states even though Hillary Clinton still has more staff in Ohio than he has all over the country. He is in the midst of a reboot. He is focusing more strategically on the swing states, and more importantly, he has been more focused on raising money. His campaign says he's raised $11 million in just a week. If that's true, it means he has the potential to catch up with Clinton.

GREENE: OK. We've been speaking to NPR's national political correspondent, Mara Liasson, about Donald Trump's swing through some swing states today. Mara, thanks a lot.

LIASSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.