WILKES-BARRE — With about 200 fellow Republicans in the room Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta put the 2016 Republican National Convention and the upcoming November election in perspective.
“This is, and always has been, between the American people and Donald Trump,” Barletta, R-Hazleton, said at Wednesday’s breakfast meeting of the Pennsylvania Delegation.
Barletta ended up being the featured speaker at the breakfast after Ohio Gov. John Kasich cancelled his appearance before the delegation, citing a scheduling conflict.
“His (Kasich’s) absence doesn’t really matter at all,” Barletta said in a telephone interview after the breakfast. “This election is about the American people and Donald Trump. It’s not about any politician who doesn’t want to support the nominee of the American people.”
Barletta went on to say that the absence of Kasich and Mitt Romney and the Bush family won’t have any effect on Trump’s campaign.
“Their absence doesn’t really matter to the people who support Trump,” Barletta said.
The congressman said throughout the election process, the American people have been pretty clear.
“They don’t care what the establishment does or thinks — they support Trump,” Barletta said. “The silent majority is speaking up in this election. The American people are tired of Washington telling them that Washington knows better. The people are rejecting the politics-as-usual approach by the establishment.”
At the breakfast, Barletta said he stressed the importance of Pennsylvania in the general election against Democrat Hillary Clinton.
“He needs Pennsylvania to win,” Barletta said.
Barletta said he told the delegates about Trump’s plan to take care of the U.S. military and its veterans.
“He’s about putting America first,” Barletta said.
Barletta said his message was well-received, and the delegation seemed to be energized as the convention hit its mid-point. Trump will top it all off with his acceptance speech Thursday night at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.
The gap between Kasich and Trump seems to have widened. According to an Associated Press story, Kasich has maintained it would be emblematic of a politician’s situational hypocrisy if he endorsed Trump in time for the convention after being so critical of him during the primaries.
The AP story noted “the victor would have to change everything that he says in order for Kasich to speak at the convention, Kasich told NBC on Monday.
“He’s embarrassing his party in Ohio,” the Trump campaign chief, Paul Manafort, told the AP Monday in explaining why Kasich would not appear on the podium.
According to Megan Sweeney, communications director for the Pennsylvania Republican Party, Kasich cancelled his scheduled appearance with the Pennsylvania Delegation on Tuesday night.
“Governor Kasich was born in Pennsylvania,” Sweeney said. “Ohio and Pennsylvania share the same values, and our delegations have always been close.”
Rick Morelli, delegate from the 11th Congressional District, said he was disappointed that he didn’t get to hear Kasich address the state’s delegation. Morelli was hoping Kasich, a former Republican presidential candidate, would address the convention.
“I really wish Gov. Kasich would speak,” Morelli said. “This is his state, after all. And if he did speak at the convention, it would mean a lot in unifying the Republican Party.”
Sweeney said John Ratzenberger — Cliff Clavin on the TV show “Cheers” — will speak at the Pennsylvania Delegation’s breakfast.
Morelli said Barletta did a good job getting the delegates charged up for the campaign.
“Barletta told us Pennsylvania could take Trump over the top,” Morelli said.
Illegal immigration was discussed and Morelli said the U.S. needs a better system to assure terrorists don’t have easy entry into the country.
“There’s nothing wrong in coming in the right way and doing things legal,” Morelli said. “The safety of our country is at stake. We have to have a better system. We realize the majority coming in are good people, but it only take a few to create a major problem.”
Morelli said the speakers at the RNC have been painting a clear picture of who Donald Trump is and also who Hillary Clinton really is.
• Pennsylvania’s 5th District Congressman Glenn “G.T.” Thompson, Barletta, and 12th District Congressman Keith Rothfus were the featured speakers today at the PA GOP Delegation’s Wednesday breakfast.
• “The Republican Party of Pennsylvania has the best Congressional delegation in the country,” PA GOP Chairman Rob Gleason said. “The PA GOP has a lot of first-time delegates here this week, so today was a great opportunity for them to hear from three members of our Congressional delegation in person.”
• “The presidential election will be decided by Pennsylvania,” Thompson said. “Pennsylvania Republicans are ready to work harder than ever for Donald Trump this November.”
• “Donald Trump is not afraid to make the tough decisions we need to make our country great,” Barletta added. “Donald Trump understands the importance of addressing the illegal immigration crisis that’s facing our country. He is ready to stand up for America, and I’m proud to stand up for him.”
• “The country is hungry for change and Donald Trump has tapped into the frustration Americans are feeling as a result of President Obama’s failed policies,” Rothfus explained. ”Hillary Clinton would continue the status quo. It is time for Republicans to unite around the propositional better.gop platform that a President Trump will sign so we can get the country moving ahead.”
• Pennsylvania’s Republican delegation consists of 71 delegates and 68 alternate delegates.
Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.