He didn't actually mean bringing back Paterno, the longtime former Penn State football coach, which would be a trick because Paterno is dead. He meant bringing back a statue of Paterno at the school, removed in the wake of the child-sex-abuse scandal that roiled the school. Regardless of Trump's intent, it was a somewhat weird thing to mention in Pittsburgh, where loyalty to Penn State isn't as strong as is loyalty to Pitt. (Please don't send me emails about this.)
But it was very Trumpian. Trump has been unabashed in his attempts to curry favor from locals by shouting out local businesses, or things that they like, or things that they are rumored to like. In the same speech, Trump also pledged that "steel is coming back to Pittsburgh," which sounds nice but which most Pittsburghers probably know is pretty unlikely. (And besides, the city has done a good job of shedding its Rust Belt image.)
Often, the things Trump praises are things that kids have to memorize in fifth-grade social studies classes. For example:
In Michigan, he talked cars. And so on.
Some states are trickier. When you think of New Hampshire, what do you think? Liberty? Maybe, uh, the state motto? ("Live free or die")
Correct. "What a great slogan," he said in a video statement. "Congratulations, New Hampshire. Wonderful job."
In Iowa, where he spent an enormous amount of time campaigning, he covered a wide assortment of things.
Farming. How much does Trump love Iowa's farms? In his concession speech, he suggested that he might return to the state to buy a farm. No doubt the classiest farm in the state.
Ethanol. At a rally, Trump was asked how he felt about ethanol, a fuel additive made from corn. "I love it, I’m for it," he replied.
Hotels. Iowa isn't known for its hotels, really, but Trump's reflexive praise of those he wants to impress included praise for his lodging one night. "The hotels were beautiful; they were clean, nice," he said. Strong words.
Wind energy. Despite a long, passionate battle against wind energy in Scotland, Trump changed his tune when he was in Newton, Iowa, home of turbine manufacturer TPI Composites.
"It's an amazing thing when you think -- you know, where they can, out of nowhere, out of the wind, they make energy," he told a crowd there.
Pella windows. In the town of Pella, Trump also praised the eponymous windows manufactured there. "Oh Pella, Pella, Pella, I’m always negotiating the prices of those damn windows, you know?" he said to cheers. "But they’re good, I’ll tell you what. They’re a great product, and we buy a lot of them."
(The Daily Beast was unable to verify that claim.)
But that was in Iowa. By the time Trump got to Wisconsin, his preferred window brand had changed. There, he praised Wausau windows, which he called "some of the best in the world."
Wisconsin also gave him the opportunity to praise the Green Bay Packers (including quarterback Aaron Rodgers and a mention about once meeting former coach Vince Lombardi) and Milwaukee-based Harley-Davidson motorcycles.
"Harley, I love Harleys, right?," he said in House Speaker Paul D. Ryan's home town of Janesville. "But the motorcycle guys want Trump. And [Ryan] doesn't look like a motorcycle guy, I'm sorry."
Trump doesn't always get it right. In Peoria, Ill., he went out of his way to praise Caterpillar machinery, headquartered in the city. But John Deere is headquartered in Moline, Ill., so he had to cobble together a two-fer.
"They didn't have Caterpillar tractors," he said of the builders of the Great Wall of China, "because I only want to use Caterpillar, if you wanna know the truth. Or John Deere. Buy a lot of equipment from John Deere. I love John Deere, too."
In Arkansas, he slipped up and asked the audience if they liked Alabama football. They did not.
In some places, Trump's been able to brag about what he himself has done. His pitch in New York is fairly simple, and in Nevada and Florida, he bragged about how many jobs he created in those states. But the grand champion of his authentic pandering came during his speech at an American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, conference.
"I love the people in this room," he said near the speech's conclusion. "I love Israel. I love Israel. I’ve been with Israel so long in terms of I’ve received some of my greatest honors from Israel, my father before me, incredible."
Oh, and: "My daughter, Ivanka, is about to have a beautiful Jewish baby."
Beat that, Ted Cruz.