State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Katie Meyer covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

Trump angles for blue-collar vote in Scranton

Written by Katie Meyer, Capitol Bureau Chief | Jul 28, 2016 4:50 AM
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Trump pledged to bring steel, coal, and gas jobs to Pennsylvania. (Photo by Min Xian/WPSU)

(Scranton) -- Riding on a sizeable poll bump following the Republican National Convention, presidential nominee Donald Trump made a beeline for Scranton, PA for his first rally as the GOP's official pick for president.

Why Scranton? According to Trump, and several tentative polling predictions, the Keystone State could be a deciding factor in the 2016 election.

Several hundred supporters turned out in Lackawanna College gym, filling the space almost completely.

Unsurprisingly, attendees--like Korean War vet John Troiani--said they went to hear their candidate speak bluntly on the issues that have become hallmarks of his campaign, like tighter immigration rules, better national security, and support for veterans.

"He's independent, he's an outsider, and he tells it like it is," Troiani said. "That's what the American people want. They don't want this bunch of politicians giving you the same old rhetoric, rhetoric, and rhetoric."

Trump didn't disappoint in that regard, giving a characteristically expansive, hour-long address.

But the issue he homed in on most was one tailored to Pennsylvania, and specifically to working-class voters.

"Pennsylvania has lost one in thre manufacturing jobs, right?" Trump asked the crowd. "Look at these numbers...Scranton has lost 43 percent of its manufacturing jobs since Bill Clinton signed NAFTA."

Pennsylvania's coal production peaked in the 1980s, and steel production has been declining since then too.

But repeatedly, Trump pledged to bring it all back.

He said "renegotiating" NAFTA and making better trade deals with countries like China and Japan can return jobs to America by the thousands.

He also emphasized his affection for humble American workers, like Pennsylvania coal miners.

"I said [to the miners], so tell me, would you ever think of like, leaving and going to another place and maybe doing something else instead of this? They said, Mr. Trump--and I understand this so well--we love mining."

"I love that," Trump said.

These blue-collar workers are the ones Trump will likely need to turn out in force if he hopes to win the Keystone state in November.

They've played a significant role in giving Pennsylvania to the Democrats in every presidential election since 1992.

But change may be in the air. Take air force vet and ardent Trump supporter Bob Hirsch, for example.

Despite having supported Trump since the start of his campaign, Hirsch declared himself "a registered Democrat." And he was far from the only supporter at the Scranton rally who'd leaned left in the past.

The Trump converts are largely white, middle aged, and middle class. And they could make a real difference in the way Pennsylvania votes as a whole.

Several polls of the state have Trump in a dead heat with Clinton. And Trump acknowledged that it may be close.

"The miners and the steel workers and the executives and the professors--we've got them all. We have to get out there, we've got to vote. We can't sit back," he said. "Because this is a really vital state."

Hillary Clinton also seems to think Pennsylvania's worth fighting for. Coming off her own nomination, she's doing campaign stops in Harrisburg and Pittsburgh.

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