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Trump downs Clinton in battleground Pennsylvania

Written by The Associated Press | Nov 9, 2016 4:42 AM
donald_trump_win.jpg

resident-elect Donald Trump smiles as he arrives to speak at an election night rally, Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016, in New York. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

(Undated) -- Donald Trump snatched Pennsylvania away from Hillary Clinton on Tuesday, claiming its trove of electoral votes on his way to winning the White House. The billionaire businessman defied long political odds to become the first Republican presidential candidate to win the state since 1988.

Propelled by white working-class voters in small towns and rural areas, Trump narrowly defeated Democrat Clinton, his victory capping a long, nasty campaign in which both candidates lavished attention on the key battleground.

The fiercely contested presidential race was reflected in close races up and down the Pennsylvania ballot, with Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey narrowly winning re-election and Democrats sweeping all three statewide row offices.

Toomey scored a key victory in the Republicans' drive to maintain Senate control, besting Democratic challenger Katie McGinty. Pennsylvanians also expanded Republican control of the state Legislature, voted in contests for U.S. House, and appeared ready to raise the retirement age for judges.

Election officials reported few problems at the polls amid heavy turnout, with concerns about possible voter intimidation and fraud proving unfounded.

Democrats kept their grip on the scandal-marred Pennsylvania attorney's general's office, with Josh Shapiro defeating Republican John Rafferty in the race to succeed Kathleen Kane as the state's top law enforcement officer. Kane resigned in August after she was convicted of leaking secret investigative information and lying about it in a scheme to smear a rival prosecutor.

Many voters weren't exactly thrilled with the choice at the top of the ticket. About 1 in 4 said neither Trump nor Clinton was honest, according to an exit poll conducted for The Associated Press and the television networks. Only 5 percent said both candidates were qualified to be president.

"I'm appalled that this man has made it as far as he's made," said Marianne Phillips, a 71-year-old Democrat from Allentown who voted for Clinton.

In Pittsburgh, Jared Reilly, 41, voted for the first time in his life. He cast his ballot for Trump. Clinton "should be buried under the jail," he said.

With Democrats outnumbering Republicans by more than 900,000 voters, Trump managed to flip the traditionally blue state as he closed in on the 270 electoral votes necessary to win the White house.

He campaigned in blue-collar enclaves like Wilkes-Barre and Johnstown -- whose economies have struggled since the collapse of heavy industries like coal mining and steel production decades ago -- betting his populist message would motivate voters in small towns and rural areas to get to the polls and counter Clinton's anticipated strength in voter-rich Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

Clinton, likewise, spent plenty of time in Pennsylvania and blanketed the state's airwaves with ads that used Trump's own inflammatory and offensive words against him, painting the Republican as dangerously unfit. She had been counting on President Barack Obama's winning coalition of young voters, liberals, women and minorities to propel her to victory in a state without which no Democrat has won the White House since Harry Truman in 1948.

The economy was Pennsylvania voters' top concern, according to the exit poll.

Just below Clinton and Trump on the ballot was the hotly contested U.S. Senate race. Toomey was among the most vulnerable Republicans as the GOP sought to hang onto its Senate majority.

The Senate campaign dominated TV screens, becoming the nation's most expensive race ever with spending in excess of $160 million.

With nearly all ballots counted, Pennsylvanians were narrowly supporting an increase in the mandatory retirement age for more than 1,000 appellate, county and district judges, from 70 to 75. Some voters complained the poll question was confusing, making it seem as if they were being asked to establish a retirement age for the first time instead of to raise it.

The ballot also included statewide races for treasurer and auditor general.

For treasurer, Democrat Joe Torsella downed Republican Otto Voit to fill an office that's also been marred by corruption. Democrat Rob McCord resigned last year and pleaded guilty to federal extortion charges.

In the race for auditor general, Democrat Eugene DePasquale won re-election against Republican John Brown.

Two races for seats in the U.S. House were notable.

Democrat Dwight Evans will replace the resigned and convicted Chaka Fattah in a heavily Democratic congressional district in Philadelphia. Evans won a special election to fill out Fattah's term and a full two-year term to follow.

Republican Brian Fitzpatrick won a congressional seat in the Philadelphia suburbs -- and will replace his brother, Mike Fitzpatrick, who's retiring.

Republicans appeared to be on track to increase their large majorities in both chambers of the state Legislature.

There were scattered reports of glitches on older electronic machines across the state. The problems involved about 25 machines of nearly 24,000 in use statewide, according to Pennsylvania election officials, who said voters were moved to other booths while the errant machines were quickly recalibrated.

 WHITE MEN REPRESENT A MAJOR BLOC  

White voters are a shrinking part of the population, but they still made up 4 in 5 voters in Pennsylvania.  

White women were divided about evenly between the candidates. 

But Trump had the support of more than 3 in 5 white men. He did even better among white men without college degrees, getting about 7 in 10 of their votes. 

CLINTON DIDN'T MATCH OBAMA IN CITIES 

Clinton dominated the vote in Pennsylvania cities with populations over 50,0, getting 7 in 10 votes there. 

But that did not match what President Barrack Obama did when he was re-elected in 2012, when he received 8 in 10 votes in those same cities. 

Her performance in the Philadelphia suburbs was about the same as Obama's four years ago. 

Trump's results in the rest of the state were similar to Mitt Romney's in 2012.  

NOT ALL VOTERS WERE ENTHUSIASTIC  

Voters in Pennsylvania, like those across the country, indicated they did not see it as a choice between two good candidates. 

Hardly any said both were qualified, honest or had the temperament for the job.  

And about 1 in 8 said neither of them was qualified for the job. 

That left voters in the odd position of casting their ballots for a candidate they had major reservations about. 

About 1 in 5 Trump voters said he's not honest and about the same portion said he's not qualified. 

About 1 in 4 Clinton voters questioned their candidate's honesty. But more than 9 in 10 of her supporters said she's qualified. 

ABOUT THE POLL  

The preliminary exit poll of 2,935 Pennsylvania voters was conducted for AP and the television networks by Edison Research in a random sample of 50 precincts statewide.

Results were subject to sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points; it is higher for subgroups.

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