Diana Fritts was showing off her “Make America Great Again” pants just before the State of the Union address began.
“Did you see my pants?” Fritts said as she laughed.
She was one of about three dozen people who attended a watch party at Zach’s Sports Bar and Grill in Altoona Tuesday night. President Trump delivered his third State of the Union Address to a divided congress as he prepared to face the verdict in the impeachment trial against him. But, in Altoona, supporters saw an uplifting speech from a president delivering what he’s promised.
It was the first time Fritts and her husband, Jacob, went to a watch party like this. Fritts said she came to celebrate the president’s accomplishments.
“Of course everybody knows the unemployment rate is the lowest it's ever been. And it's been that way throughout his whole term. So that's nothing new,” she said. “But he's also gotten the borders more secure. That's very important.”
According to NPR, the unemployment rate in December was 3.5%, matching the lowest rate in 50 years.
Jacob Fritts chimed in.
“[I] love the fact that he's fighting for free speech on college campuses, which is a big thing,” he said. He believed the president deserves credit for a strong economy, declining illegal immigration and the new USMCA trade deal.
“He does something good, and you get one side that just can't even clap or accept the fact that he's doing good for the country,” Fritts said he hoped there would be more bipartisanship in the government.
Lois Kaneshiki wore a sparkling red, white and blue pin that said “Trump 2020.” She is the president of the group Blair County Republican Women, which hosted the event.
“You know, the work he’s done on the border, securing the border, and supporting our law enforcement and some of the international – the foreign affairs work and the new deal with the Middle East – those are really, some of the really huge accomplishments, I think,” Kaneshiki said.
President Trump won about 70% of the votes in Blair county in 2016, and, like many in the audience this evening, Kaneshiki is ready to get behind him once again in this year’s election.
But, there is room for improvement, she said.
“I'd like to see the president do a better job in reducing spending,” she said. “We've got to keep, you know, supporting the economy and hopefully free up a little bit of trade and not so many tariffs.”
Michele Skarada, of Altoona, said she was glad to hear about the president’s call to end late-term abortion and protect Second Amendment rights. She said one thing she’d like to hear about more from the administration is welfare reform.
“I think people need to be given a hand up, not a handout,” she said. “We need to stop giving and we need to start teaching.”
Overall, Skarada said the speech was “very positive.”
“Everything was based on positivity. We were lifting up. We were lifting up - everyone who he spoke about tonight,” Skarada said.
Jacob Fritts agreed. The president awarded conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh a Medal of Freedom during his speech and surprised a military family with a reunion with their father.
“It's almost like a tear jerker. It's pretty emotional. I think it was a lot more emotional than it was last year,” Fritts said.
There was no mention in Trump’s speech about impeachment, but the partisan divide was on full display.
Live coverage of the speech from Fox News occasionally showed Congressional Democrats shaking their heads at Trump and remaining seated while the other half of the chamber applauded and cheered. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ripped up a copy of the speech moments after the president concluded. All the theatrics didn’t escape the crowd.
“Look at all the disgruntled Democrats,” one viewer commented.
Supporters said they don’t see valid evidence in the impeachment trial. Diana Fritts said, the country should get past partisan politics.
“Honestly, I don’t think it was about the impeachment as much as it was tarnishing him for the next election,” she said.
The U.S. Senate voted on Wednesday afternoon to acquit the president on both articles of his impeachment.
Fritts said that result is “one hundred percent” vindication.