Pandering to local crowds is a staple of political campaigns everywhere, and Donald Trump’s is no different. But the key to successful pandering is knowing to whom you’re speaking and, of course, what you’re saying.
Trump was way off base on both those counts Wednesday, when he spoke before a crowd of supporters at a rally in Pittsburgh.
“I know a lot about Pennsylvania, and it’s great,” Trump said. Which is standard-issue stuff, but then things got awkward.
“How’s Joe Paterno?” Trump asked. “We’re gonna bring that back? Right? How about that whole deal?”
Paterno, for those who may have forgotten (including, possibly, a certain presidential candidate) died in 2012. (Wait, is bringing him back from the grave an essential part of making America great again?)
A campaign spokesperson subsequently clarified that Trump was referring to Paterno’s statue, which was taken down in 2012 in the wake of the scandal at Penn State involving former Paterno assistant Jerry Sandusky’s sexual abuse of children. That interpretation of Trump’s comments does jibe with the fact that he said “bring that back,” rather than “bring him back,” and it is true that many Penn State fans feel that Paterno was unjustly fired and want to see his pre-Sandusky legacy restored.
But even with that, there’s the fact that Trump was pandering to Penn State fans while in Pittsburgh. Trump, though, quickly realized his mistake, at least the one about where he was, and got the confused crowd back on his side.
“We love Penn State but we love Pittsburgh, right?” he asked.