Party switchers look to flip Pennsylvania
Clinton loses blue-collar voters to Trump in crucial corners of Rust Belt
PITTSBURGH | Retired electrician Dave Estadt, a registered Democrat who lives in the suburbs of this solidly Democratic city, said he grew more certain in recent days about voting for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump — but he is not there yet.
Voters such as Mr. Estadt are helping Mr. Trump significantly cut into Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s poll lead in the crucial Keystone State.
“I don’t agree with everything he says, but I don’t agree with anything Hillary says,” said Mr. Estadt, 64. “She’ll be a continuation of Obama. I think he’s been an absolutely horrible president.”
Like many other voters this year, Mr. Estadt called it a choice for the “lesser of two evils.”
The race has tightened in Pennsylvania, and both candidates have poured resources into the state, which is the linchpin of Mr. Trump’s bid to build support among blue-collar voters to carve a path through the Rust Belt to the White House.
A win in Pennsylvania, with its 20 electoral votes, would be the most likely way for Mr. Trump to cobble together the 270 needed to win the presidency. Conversely, it’s the most likely place for Mrs. Clinton to stop him.
Mrs. Clinton’s lead in Pennsylvania shrank to 3 points, 44 percent to 41 percent, in Muhlenberg College/Morning Call poll released last Sunday, a 6-point drop form her lead a week ago.
The former secretary of state’s lead was a narrower 2 points, 40 percent to 38 percent, in a four-way race that included Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson at 8 percent and Green Party nominee Jill Stein at 3 percent.
Other polls have shown Mr. Trump closing in on Mrs. Clinton, but the Muhlenberg College/Morning Call survey was the most dramatic shift yet in Pennsylvania.
“No questions about it. There is definitely a movement toward Trump among nontraditional Republican voters,” said Charlie Gerow, a Republican strategist based in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. “That’s offset by a significant number of Republicans, at least in Pennsylvania, to whom Trump still hasn’t made the sale.
“Pennsylvania is still up for grabs, but Pennsylvania is always an uphill climb for the Republican candidate. It was for Ronald Reagan, who carried the state twice,” he said.
Mr. Trump has the best chance of any recent Republican candidate of turning Pennsylvania red for the first time since 1988 because of his strength in the Democratic stronghold around Pittsburgh in the southwest and around Scranton in the northeast.
In 2012, Mr. Obama won the state by taking Allegheny County, which includes Pittsburgh, with 56 percent of the vote, and Lackawanna County, which includes Scranton, with 63 percent of the vote.
Mr. Trump built support among bluecollar voters in those areas partly with promises to make smarter trade deals and bring back manufacturing jobs. The message has gained favor with other candidates as voters respond enthusiastically to Mr. Trump’s tough talk against jobs moving to China and Mexico.
Ed Pape, 38, a laboratory technician in the Pittsburgh suburb Wilkinsburg, said he switched his party affiliation from Democrat to Republican because of Mr. Trump.
“I like Trump. I absolutely can’t stand Hillary Clinton,” he said. “They’ve been corrupt since they started in Arkansas.”
In the Muhlenberg College/Morning Call poll, about a third of the supporters for Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump said they were voting against the opponent rather than for their candidate.
Both candidates continued to suffer from high unfavorable ratings. Mr. Trump had a unfavorable score of 61 percent, and Mrs. Clinton was at 55 percent in the survey.
Those high unfavorable ratings, however, could keep as many voters home Nov. 8 as drive voters to the polls to register their opposition.
“Probably come November, I’m not voting for anybody. I think Hillary is a crook, and I think Trump is a hothead,” said Jay Krznaric, 37, a registered Democrat in Allegheny County who works as a private security supervisor.
“No questions about it. There is definitely a movement toward Trump among nontraditional Republican voters. That’s offset by a significant number of Republicans, at least in Pennsylvania, to whom Trump still hasn’t made the sale.” — Charlie Gerow, a Republican strategist in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
A win in Pennsylvania, with its 20 electoral votes, would be the most likely way for Donald Trump to cobble together the 270 needed to win the presidency. Hillary Clinton’s lead in Pennsylvania shrank to 3 points, 44 percent to 41 percent.