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Thread: How Trump made small-town America matter again

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  1. #1
    Administrator Jean's Avatar
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    May 2006

    How Trump made small-town America matter again

    By Salena Zito
    January 22, 2017 | 6:56am

    Getty Images

    The first time Donald J. Trump stepped onstage in Pennsylvania in April 2016 at the Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg, it was clear something very different was going on in this state, with this candidate.

    It was not because the rally was massive, or because it was boisterous, or that it was poorly organized, though all those things were true.

    Having already attended 18 of his rallies throughout primary states across the country, I found, in fact, that it looked very familiar.

    It was different because it was in Pennsylvania.

    It was a campaign that was designed to fail from the very beginning.

    Supporters cheer at a campaign rally for Donald Trump in October 2016 in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.Getty Images

    Trump’s plan was a genius gamble; use the press to get his message out, which he did, doing sometimes 10 to 12 media hits a day across the cable and network news shows. They were sometimes long-winded, rambling streams of consciousness, they were oftentimes controversial — and they never failed to get everyone’s attention.

    In those moments, he tapped into a populist sentiment of enough with all things big: big banks, big government, big bureaucracies. Voters were tired of adapting to every new elite, politically correct edict, tired of being scolded by their betters and, most of all, tired of being left behind.

    In primary after primary, they voted against their ideologies and, sometimes, their best interests. They crossed party lines when they could in open primaries and switched parties in closed primaries.

    By the time he arrived in Pennsylvania in April, a state that had not seen a contentious Republican primary since the 1980 Ronald Reagan-George H.W. Bush contest, Trump had already annihilated 15 of his 17 Republican rivals.

    And while no one was looking, 90,000 registered Democrats switched their affiliation to vote for him in the primary.

    The only two left to battle against him in the Keystone State were Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who was born there, and Cruz, who had built up an army of pledged delegates in the state. Pennsylvania has a quirky delegate system: The winner is not who has the most votes, but who has the most pledged delegates, a process that requires a candidate to have deep establishment connections to the delegates and the willingness to win them over.

    Cruz had plenty of that and Kasich was trying, but Trump was about to show everyone he knew how to connect when needed. *

    The drive from Pittsburgh to Harrisburg on old US Route 22 to see Trump’s first rally took an hour longer than on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, but the trip began to tell the story of how this candidate would most definitely be the Republican nominee, and possibly the president.

    Town after town was worn down by neglect. Main Street shopping districts were half boarded up, sometimes with only a Dollar General store serving as an anchor. Voters were angry with Washington, DC, disappointed in President Obama, and were tired that every time they sent DC a message with their votes, elected officials misread it.

    At the Farm Complex, the event center was bursting at the seams. Inside, about 6,000 people patiently waited, and outside, an additional 6,000 who could not get in and were being harassed by anti-Trump protesters.

    His supporters chanted, “Build that wall” and “Get a job” at the protester,s who volleyed a with a singsong, profanity-laced version of the chants. When the protesters shouted, “Black lives matter” over and over, Trump’s crowd responded with, “Blue lives matter.”

    Inside, Trump walked onstage to a deafening greeting and said, “Oh, we’re gonna build the wall.”

    Six days later, he won the state in historical numbers over Cruz and Kasich, capturing all 67 counties, a feat no one had ever achieved. He won the delegates as well, securing the nomination — perhaps not officially, but certainly emotionally.

    The numbers showed he won the support of the majority of men and women, voters with incomes over $100,000 and under $50,000, and Republicans in cities, suburbs and rural areas.

    He also won among voters under 45 and those 45 and older, as well as moderates and conservatives.

    In short, his victory was the result of a growing coalition that no one understood.

    To tell the story of how Donald Trump’s campaign won this election is to tell the story of how he won Pennsylvania in the general election.

    As with the primary contests, his state operation was lean on staff, and its mailing effort was the least resourced of all the battleground states.

    What he did have was David Urban, a longtime Pennsylvania operative who knew the state and its people inside and out.

    Urban also know his best campaign strategy was to have Trump there once a week between the convention and Election Day, and he did just that, with Scranton serving as the bookend appearances.

    Urban placed him not only in Scranton, where a Republican presidential candidate hadn’t won in a generation, but he also shuttled Trump to Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Erie, Hershey and Gettysburg. The crowds were historic. The enthusiasm was not only palpable at the events, but it created a trickle-down impact — yard signs.

    Experts will tell you yard signs do not matter, but they were so symbolic of Trump’s unorthodox campaign style: If he was not in your face on television, he sure was in your face with his yard signs in your neighborhood, large ones, small ones, homemade signs with colorful anecdotes, and even an entire house painted red, white and blue with a 15-foot-tall steel cutout figure of Trump guarding it.

    So many visitors came from around the country to see the roadside spectacle (they averaged 1,400 a day), an around-the-clock security guard had to be on duty.

    Every poll told you Trump was losing; every conversation you had with someone told you otherwise.

    When I interviewed Trump in September, right before he was to speak at the shale conference to hundreds of oil and gas small-business men and women in Pittsburgh, he was centered and gracious.

    “Two things people don’t know about me,” he said as the interview was wrapping up. “I am humbled by the people who do support me, because most of them are the ones who are almost to the point of giving up hope, and we can’t have that in America.

    “And the other thing is people don’t know that I am nice, that I am a nice person.”

    By the time Election Day came around, Trump had visited Pennsylvania 15 times in 13 weeks, with his children and vice-presidential nominee, Mike Pence, making dozens of visits in between.

    As with Trump’s visits to Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin, experts chuckled at the waste of time and effort in states they believed he would never win. But the campaign believed there were plenty of Trump-Pence voters hiding in plain sight.

    In the end, he pulled off a stunning win in Pennsylvania, turning out voters in counties like Luzerne, Erie, Cambria, Washington and Westmoreland at a rate that eventually would offset Hillary Clinton’s solid numbers in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

    The key was picking off Obama Democrats in the suburbs and rural areas, and getting regular Republican midterm voters, but squeamish presidential voters, energized. It worked. Just as it worked in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Florida and North Carolina.

    Trump’s win was threefold. It occurred during populist unrest; he was unlike anyone whom voters had ever seen before; and the experts misjudged how disliked Obama’s policies were, because the focus was too much on his personal popularity.

    Data were never able to track that type of emotional push against government.

    In a republic that is 240 years old, it isn’t often that a political occurrence can surprise. The 2016 presidential race was one that will go down in the history books, marking a rare occasion when a true populist was able to transfer that energy into votes.
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  2. #2
    Senior Member Judy's Avatar
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    Aug 2005
    Trump has made all the good stuff matter again. Small towns, urban cities, farms, coal mines, manufacturing, energy, borders, law and safety, peace and national security, big new good stuff called infrastructure with new roads, levees, airports, bridges, fast trains, etc., etc., etc., all paired with lower taxes and a soaring economy.
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