YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – President Donald Trump will be one of the first sitting presidents to visit Youngstown in a long time.
President Obama was the last sitting president to visit Youngstown. He came in 2010 to discuss the economy.
The Mahoning Valley Historical Society said it usually takes something big to get a sitting president to come to the city. The concept of a sitting president traveling for a rally, though, is still relatively new.
“You had campaign stops going back into the 19th century but oftentimes, when a president went into office, he spent his time exclusively in Washington, D.C.,” said the historical society’s executive director, Bill Lawson.
One of the first sitting presidents documented to visit Youngstown was Franklin D. Roosevelt during World War II.
“Youngstown was a very important part of the war effort in terms of our steel industry, so he and Mrs. Roosevelt came here as well,” Lawson said.
He said since then — with improved transportation — presidents typically only came to Youngstown when something big was happening or if they were invited.
“In July of 1996, Bill Clinton came here to celebrate Youngstown’s Bicentennial and Mahoning County’s Sesquicentennial [150th anniversary] and we had a big event down in front of the BNO Station along the Mahoning River.”
Lawson said, of course, you’ll also see sitting presidents come to town before election cycles, like George W. Bush’s visit to Youngstown State in 2004.
Lawson predicts the Rust Belt cities are going to take in presidential interest even more so than they did this past election.
“They’re no longer givens as far as a particular party, like the Democratic Party and the working class. You see working class voters really splitting and not really having loyalties anymore,” he said.
Trump’s rally next week is set for 7 p.m. You can register online to attend the event.
Youngstown police and downtown staff are meeting with Trump’s team and Secret Service on Thursday to discuss what’s to be expected.
Mayor John McNally said Trump’s campaign was a big movement for Youngstown, putting it in the national spotlight. McNally said it’s still getting international attention.
He’s expecting this rally to attract a lot of people — both supporters and protesters — to downtown Youngstown.
“[Trump] thrives in this rally-type setting. I think it’s his hard core supporters who come out for this, and I think he does like to entertain them and he likes to throw them that proverbial red meat,” McNally said.
Dr. Paul Sracic, the chair of Youngstown State’s Political Science Department, said Trump’s Valley visit could allow him to do a number of things he can’t always do in Washington, D.C.
He believes that Youngstown — one of Trump’s first stops during a tour of Midwestern states — is very important to the president and Republicans.
“You have to see Youngstown, I think, as much as a symbol of similar towns throughout the Midwest…and not just Youngstown, the voters here now,” Sracic said.
He said coming to the nation’s heartland — especially in a state and a region that Trump won last November — gives the president a chance to reach out to the voters who helped elect him and to put pressure on lawmakers who’ve been slow to pass his initiatives, like health care.
“Trump doesn’t have a vote in the Senate but what he can do is, you know, put pressure on Republicans reluctant to vote with him, that they have to go along with him because he still is popular with their base voters,” Sracic said.
He said a Youngstown rally will allow Trump to tailor his message to the voters, instead of just lawmakers and the media.
“That’s the advantage of these rallies, in that he controls what he wants to talk about. This isn’t a press conference, right? Where he has to answer questions, maybe about health care, that he’s not happy about or doesn’t really want to talk about right now, or the Russia investigation.”
Although polls have shown the president’s approval numbers have not been strong across the country, he remains very popular with the majority of people who voted for him in November.