MOON TOWNSHIP, Pa. (Reuters) – President Donald Trump on Saturday that his controversial tariffs will bring back the U.S. steel industry, as he campaigned in Pennsylvania steel country for a Republican congressional candidate in a tight race.
Trump’s appearance was aimed at helping Republican Rick Saccone in a district Trump won overwhelmingly in 2016 as part of a narrow win in Pennsylvania.
Trump spent a lot of time talking about his own fortunes in a “Make America Great Again” rally for Saccone in an airport hangar at the Pittsburgh International Airport.
A day after getting news that the U.S. economy produced 313,000 jobs last month, Trump said his policies are paying off. He said 25 percent tariffs on steel imports will help boost Pennsylvania’s economy.
Critics say the tariffs could trigger retaliatory trade measures and damage the U.S. economy. There are also doubts about how far Trump’s policies will go toward resuscitating the battered American steel industry.
“Your steel is coming back. It’s all coming back,” Trump told several thousand cheering supporters.
Trump vowed to fight any retaliatory trade measures by, for example, slapping taxes on imported European cars.
Trump also said he hoped to run against Democrat Oprah Winfrey, although the entertainer has ruled out a run despite pressure on her to seek the presidency.
“I’d love to beat Oprah. I know her weakness,” said Trump, without giving details.
Trump also said his planned-for talks with North Korea could end in failure or result in “the greatest deal for the world” that would de-escalate nuclear tensions.
“I may leave fast or we may sit down and make the greatest deal for the world,” Trump said.
Saccone is trying to win an election on Tuesday in Pennsylvania’s 18th District to replace Republican Tim Murphy, who resigned last fall while enmeshed in a sex scandal.
Saccone is competing against Democrat Conor Lamb and polls show a close race. Trump senior adviser Kellyanne Conway campaigned for Saccone on Thursday at a Lincoln Day dinner in Allegheny County.
A Saccone loss would be a blow to Trump, the first loss by Republicans of a seat in the House of Representatives since he took office in January 2017. The results will not affect Republican control of the chamber.
The race could signal how much help Trump can provide Republican congressional candidates trying to keep control of both the House of Representatives and the Senate in midterm elections next November.
Typically the party that controls the White House loses seats in the U.S. Congress in the first election after a new president takes office. But Trump hopes a strong economy and tax cuts he pushed through Congress in December will help him beat the odds.
(Reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by James Dalgleish and David Gregorio)