CLYDE, Ohio — The first leg of President Donald Trump’s visit to the Buckeye State on Thursday sent him to the Sandusky area where he visited Whirlpool’s sprawling facility in Clyde. The president was greeted by a largely supportive crowd, which flanked a half-mile stretch of US 20. Employing more than 3000 people, the washing machine assembly and distribution facility is what some would consider the poster child of the economy’s pre-coronavirus success.
In 2018, the plant added 200 new positions as a result of Trump’s tariffs on foreign-made appliances. Crystal Holloway, an employee at the Whirlpool plant for the past three years, clocked out Thursday morning after her overnight shift and firmly planted herself outside, waiting for the president’s arrival.
“They're a bunch of us that are pretty excited that [Trump] is coming today,” Holloway said. “[Trump] made it to where we had our jobs still. We were getting ready to lose a bunch of jobs. He’s for the people, making sure they have their jobs and getting people back to work so they have ways to support their families. Without him making sure we have our jobs, I probably wouldn’t have a job. I have to support my family. My husband can’t; he’s disabled.”
Seated next to Holloway and her husband were the Canterburys, who were clad in pro-Trump shirts and hats. The Canterburys said prior to 2016, neither one of them were politically active. In 2016, then-candidate Trump was able to capitalize on voters like the Canterburys and those in blue-collar voting blocs. Sandusky County, a longtime Democratic stronghold in the Rust Belt, flipped to Trump in 2016 by a substantial margin.
Experts believe Trump must carry these so-called pivot counties like Sandusky County again in order to win Ohio, a key battleground state.
“I do think there is a huge silent majority. That’s what we are. We don’t ever do anything like this. We thought we would this time,” Janet Canterbury said. “I think he’s down to earth, believe it or not. He’s very honest. He’s not afraid to stand up to the big guys that have needed to be stood up against for a long time.”
Hundreds of people lined US 20, which is adjacent to the Whirlpool plant, hours ahead of Trump’s arrival Thursday. Although there were several pockets of people who were either pro-Biden or anti-Trump, it was largely a home crowd for the President.
Holding his pro-union and pro-Biden signs, Josh Abernathy, a member of IBEW Local 8 (Toledo), railed against Trump’s positions toward organized labor and appointees to the National Labor Relations Board. Although Abernathy said he appreciates Trump’s efforts to keep and grow manufacturing jobs across the country — and especially Ohio — Abernathy said Trump has not done nearly enough to protect the middle class.
“I think the middle class and organized labor strengthens the backbone of America. With the appointments in the National Labor Relations Board, I think Trump has loudly and clearly told us he doesn’t like organized labor in this country. He would rather have right to work in this country,” Abernathy said. “I appreciate his efforts to try to keep [manufacturing] here. I believe in that part of it. But let’s strengthen the middle class and give them the ability to organize, to have a voice in the workplace, to have strong benefits, good wages, people who can retire with dignity. That’s what we need from manufacturing in this country.”
President Trump's visit to Sandusky County marks the first time in 108 years that a sitting US President has visited the county. President William Taft visited the county in 1912.