YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — President Trump escaped the roiling turmoil of Washington on Tuesday evening — leaving behind the chaotic effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, the intensifying Russia investigation and his latest staff shake-up — to rally with his supporters in this former steel town.
“I was looking at some of those big, once incredible job-producing factories. And my wife, Melania, said, ‘What happened?’ I said, ‘Those jobs have left Ohio,’ ” Trump said to a cheering audience of several thousand. “They’re all coming back. . . . We’re going to fill up those factories or rip ’em down and build brand new ones. That’s what’s going to happen.”
Trump’s simplistic view of this city, located in what was once known as “Steel Valley,” is stuck in time. Youngstown suffered closures of steel mills in the 1970s and ’80s that laid off thousands, tanked the local economy and led to a mass exodus of residents. But the region has evolved significantly since then, and few say they expect Trump to revive the steel industry here as he has promised.
Instead, those living in Youngstown and its suburbs are worried about health care, the schools their children and grandchildren attend, the opioid crisis that now kills more Ohioans than car crashes, the care of military veterans, and the region’s overall economy — access to full-time, good-paying jobs in place of the ones their parents and grandparents once had in the mills.
In interviews with dozens of local residents, both liberals and conservatives said Trump has not accomplished as much as they had expected by now — something that many of Trump’s supporters blame fully on Congress.
“It just seems like no one can get on the same page there, not even the Republicans,” said John Morris, 63, a postmaster who lives in the suburb of Canfield and attended Our Lady of Mount Carmel Basilica’s Italian festival on the edge of downtown Friday.
Morris grew up in a Democratic family but has voted for Republicans for about two decades. He voted for Trump, despite his flaws, he said, because he hoped an outsider could change how Washington operates.
“It hasn’t changed,” he said. “We thought things might be different. . . . We thought he would be a lot further along than he is right now, but we didn’t know how many walls would go up.”
Morris said that it is up to Republicans to find a replacement for the Affordable Care Act, especially now that they control Congress and the White House — and that not doing anything is not acceptable. As he spoke, one of his friends, who reluctantly voted for Hillary Clinton, jumped in to say that he’s frustrated that no Democrats are willing to break with leadership to work with Republicans on health care.
Morris mostly watches Fox News Channel, along with the nightly newscasts on the major networks. He doesn’t understand the breathless obsession with examining every tiny connection between Trump and Russia.
“I still haven’t heard anything as far as collusion,” he said. “Whatever comes out, comes out — but it has been six months. It has been six months, and I haven’t seen anything yet. I don’t think anything more is going to come out.”
Youngstown is located in Mahoning County, which voted for Richard Nixon in 1972 but has sided with Democratic presidential candidates ever since. Last year, a wave of Democrats changed their party registrations, and there’s still a sign up on Route 7, next to a gun and ammunition shop, that says: “Cross over. Vote Trump.” Clinton eked out a win here, earning 49.9 percent of votes to Trump’s 46.6 percent, but Trump’s strong showing was considered a victory in itself.
Trump also won the two neighboring counties in Ohio’s Steel Valley, which is now called Mahoning Valley: Trumbull County to the north, which hadn’t voted for a Republican since Nixon, and Columbiana County to…