Revenge of the Rust Belt in Pennsylvania

Donald Trump arrives at a press conference in Hanahan, South Carolina.BY DONALD GILLILAND  dgilliland@tribweb.com

NEW YORK – The really big – and to some, surprising – shift in the electoral map last night was Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes going to Donald Trump.

Here’s my back-of-the-envelope analysis with three hours sleep:

It wasn’t Philly and the collar counties. They turned out for Hillary Clinton in numbers roughly analogous to those Barack Obama garnered in 2012.

Trump won Pennsylvania by roughly 63,000 votes, and three-quarters of those votes can be attributed to shifts in four counties: Luzerne, Lackawanna and Northampton in the North East and Erie in the North West.

In other words: Wilkes-Barre, Scranton, Bethlehem and Erie – all former industrial powerhouses fallen on difficult times.

The remainder can be attributed it appears to enthusiastic turnout in traditionally red but less-populous counties.

Call it the revenge of the Rust Belt and Rural counties.

Luzerne is the big one: Obama took it by five points in 2012; Trump took it by 20.

Obama took Lackawanna by 27 points in 2012; Hillary retained it with only 3 points.

Erie went for Obama by 17 points in 2012; this year they went for Trump by 2.

Obama took Northampton by 4 in 2012; Trump won it by 5.

A lot of people are going to be talking about enthusiasm – particularly Clinton failing to perform as well as Obama in 2012. She didn’t, but that’s not the real story.

Clinton got 177,000 fewer votes than Obama in 2016, and yes, that’s bigger than Trump’s winning margin. BUT… Trump got nearly  207,000 more than Mitt Romney did in 2012.

That’s the enthusiasm story.

Some people weren’t as thrilled by Clinton, but many others were energized by Trump, particularly those who live in the Rust Belt and Rural areas.

That’s a tectonic shift in Pennsylvania politics. But it seems to me it’s also Trump specific, all top-of-ballot stuff: Democrats won all the state row office seats.

Multiple polls showed voters most interested in change and the fact Trump is not a politician. They responded enthusiastically to his promises to change Washington. What remains to be seen is how successful he’ll be making good on those promises.

NOTE: This post has been updated from the original to reflect updated 2016 state totals and correct the spelling of Lackawanna.

This story was first posted at 1:28 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016