Local GOP leaders: Trump appearance ‘energizes’ election, puts Johnstown in spotlight
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Gunner Gleason recalls a jam-packed Richard Nixon campaign rally in 1968 at the Cambria County War Memorial, and said Friday’s event for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump surpassed that long-ago gathering.
Gunner – Robert Davis Gleason, a retired Johnstown attorney and longtime Pennsylvania Republican Party player – was thrilled at the crowd, reported at 6,100, that cheered Trump throughout his lively stump speech.
“He has a lot of charisma,” Gleason said of Trump. “He sells himself.”
For Nixon, Gleason said, “we filled every seat in this place. And today we did it again.”
Nixon defeated Democrat Hubert Humphrey in that 1968 election, and Trump’s followers are hoping for a similar result against Democrat Hillary Clinton on Nov. 8.
Republican presidents Dwight Eisenhower and George W. Bush also addressed War Memorial crowds, the latter when running for re-election in 2004.
“The sheriff told me this crowd today was bigger than what we had for Bush,” Pennsylvania Republican Party Chairman Rob Gleason of Johnstown said Friday.
“This was the biggest and most enthusiastic crowd we’ve had here. When Trump came out onto the stage, you could tell he was surprised at the reception.”
After his speech, Rob Gleason said, Trump noted it was “an amazing crowd.”
It was a pretty good night for the local Republican Party, too.
Cambria County GOP chairwoman Jackie Kulback said the moment brought nerves, energy and euphoria.
Kulback addressed the crowd, as did several local Republicans running for state and federal legislative offices.
“That was my first time speaking in front of a crowd that size, but we were definitely among friends,” Kulback said.
“This is something I’ll remember for the rest of my life,” she said. “This was a great event. It really energizes the whole election.”
Republican vice presidential candidate Mike Pence made a campaign stop recently at Johnstown’s JWF Industries, helping put Johnstown in the election spotlight.
“Robbie did a wonderful job of having both Trump and Pence here and talking about Johnstown issues,” Gunner Gleason said.
Rob Gleason said his job is to deliver Pennsylvania on Election Day.
He’s buoyed by 250,000 new Republican voters in the state this year, including 100,000 who switched parties to support Trump during the primaries.
But he admits the latest statewide polls show Clinton leading, especially in the southeast. Trump flew to Bucks County on Friday for another rally in that key voter region.
“The way we win Pennsylvania is to have a super turnout at these places like Johnstown,” Rob Gleason said. “And I mean a super turnout, where everybody comes out to vote.
“I’m feeling challenged because his numbers in the southeast are not what I want them to be. But there’s only one county that I know he’s not going to carry, and that’s Philadelphia County. Everything else is in play.”
Chip Minemyer is the editor of The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at (814) 532-5091. Follow him on Twitter @MinemyerChip.