Josephine Iovacchini, 76, of Philadelphia, had three of her five grandchildren graduate college in the past two years. She said they gained employment after graduation, respectively in nursing, law and the energy sector.
Iovacchini credits President Donald Trump’s focus on the economy with her grandchildren’s success.
“We couldn’t ask for a better man and I pray to God every night to keep him safe,” she said of Trump.
Iovacchini was one of about 600 women who gathered in King of Prussia Tuesday for the launch of the Pennsylvania’s “Women for Trump” Coalition. At the Valley Forge Casino in Montgomery County, Trump’s campaign rolled out its effort to court swing state women voters.
Trump won Pennsylvania in 2016 despite losing the five county Philadelphia region. It’s again considered a crucial national battleground where suburban women could hold much sway.
Iovacchini specifically criticized proposals from Democratic candidates to create a single-payer Medicare-for-all program or federally-subsidized free college.
“We all took care of ourselves, that’s what America is about — climbing the ladder to success, and that’s what socialism isn’t,” she said.
The president’s daughter-in-law Lara Trump led the rally, where many wore red, white and blue outfits paired with “Make America Great Again” baseball caps.
“I always try and say, ‘What you need to think about is your life,’” said Lara Trump in a panel discussion. “‘Is your life better now than before Donald Trump was elected?’”
For Suzana Vangjeli, 54, an Albanian native who lives Philadelphia, the answer is yes. She voted for Barack Obama in 2008, Republican candidate Mitt Romney in 2012 and Trump in 2016.
Vangjeli said she got a greater tax return this year, and as someone who translates Albanian for a living, “every penny counts.”
She credits the president with lowering the unemployment rate, and she likes that Trump has pushed for other issues she’s passionate about, like criminal justice reform.
“There are so many wrongfully convicted people in the US,” she said. “These Democrats are not doing anything for these people there.”
In December 2018, the president signed the First Step Act, which offered, among other things, a chance to reevaluate mandatory minimum sentences doled out before 2010.
At Tuesday’s rally, many attendees also noted Trump’s crackdown on illegal immigration as a core issue.
Vangjeli, who came to the US more than 20 years ago, said she did so legally. She feels badly for those facing economic hardships in other countries.
“I know so many people around the world — especially in Mexico — they have a hard life,” she said. “But coming into this country illegally is not going to change anything. It’s going to make it worse.”
Elizabeth Dove, a community college student from Yeadon, worries that native-born Americans will suffer without strict immigration enforcement.
“Now [Democrats] are talking about giving illegals healthcare,” she said in reference to the first Democratic debate, when many candidates raised their hands for the idea. “I wanna make sure I have social security when I retire.”
Bernadette Repinsky of Bucks County, a Christian in her 50s, said abortion was one of the main reasons she wanted to see Trump, who has appointed two pro-life justices to the Supreme Court, re-elected.
“Even some of the Republicans in this room, they don’t want to talk about it,” she said. “We’re talking about murder.”
President Trump has been widely criticized for his treatment of women based on accusations of sexual assault, demeaning comments and treatment of women critical of his policies.
This week, he’s come under fire for suggesting four Congresswomen of color — all U.S. citizens, three of whom were born in America — “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”
Supporters at Tuesday’s rally said they are proof there are women willing to stand on Trump’s side.
Iovacchini, the grandmother of five, said she doesn’t completely agree with the language the president uses to express himself, but people don’t understand the attacks he’s under.
“The names they call him, the foul language, they accuse him of killing — [of being] a Nazi!”
Trump, she said, defends himself from anyone regardless of who they are or where they come from.
“I don’t think he just does women, he does men, too,” she said.
Priscilla Confrey of Monmouth County, NJ came with her two daughters who were wrapped in American flags. She said “it’s a tough call” to reconcile what Trump says with what he does for the country.
“Sometimes you say things you shouldn’t, you can’t take it back if it gets out there,” Confrey said. “As long as he’s giving his whole heart to the country and doing what he says as best as he can — that’s it.”
Confrey left energized and determined to get the vote out for Trump.
Women accounted for more than 50 percent of individual contributions for Trump’s re-election campaign in the first quarter of 2019 — something speakers pointed as proof women would hand Trump a 2020 win.
“This is a president who has said a lot of things but boy has he delivered,” said Ronna McDaniel, head of the Republican National Committee. “The difference between our party and the Democrats is we treat women as a whole voter.”
Find this report and others at the site of our partner, WHYY.