Revenge of the Rust Belt in Pennsylvania

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

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

Donald Trump’s clickbait candidacy

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gestures and declares "You're fired!" at a rally on June 17, 2015, in Manchester, N.H.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gestures and declares “You’re fired!” at a rally on June 17, 2015, in Manchester, N.H.


Not all polls are created equal.

It’s a hard fact in an election year struggling with fact.

Since Monday night’s debate, Donald Trump’s campaign has been trying to peddle the idea he won in a landslide with “polls” pulled from websites as varied as Time and Brietbart.

It’s embarrassing, it’s wrong, and it’s a sad indication of how far the Republican party has fallen.

A scientific poll – such as the ones tracked by Real Clear Politics – is based on a random sample of prospective voters, carefully weighted to account for demographics. Pollsters stake their reputations on the accuracy of these polls, so the emphasis on SCIENCE should not be underestimated.

A non scientific poll – such as those that have proliferated in the Internet age – are entertainment. They are based on nothing more than how many people visiting the website have clicked on the poll – and many allow a single person to click as many times as he’d like.

That’s why they’re often referred to as “clickbait.”

The kinder term is “audience engagement.” People click on the poll, get a glimpse of the results and feel… well, something… and they’re tempted to return (more clicks) to check on the results.

There’s nothing scientific about it, and it bears no relation to reality whatsoever.

Apparently that applies to Trump’s campaign for the presidency as well.

After Monday night’s debate, Trump tweeted a conglomeration of clickbait polls and proclaimed “Such a great honor. Final debate polls are in – and the MOVEMENT wins!”

Trump poll

In an echo chamber, perhaps. In the real world, time – and scientific polls – will tell.

The fact that Trump – an inveterate, and at times indiscriminate tweeter – did a bit of chest-thumping over clickbait is less surprising than the fact his campaign proceeded to pitch the unscientific polls to reporters.

Trump’s Pennsylvania communications director Greg Manz emailed the media a list of clickbait polls with this message: “ICYMI: Donald Trump soundly defeated Hillary Clinton in Monday’s debate as evidenced by the below polls.”

Those polls aren’t evidence that Trump won anything: at best, they’re evidence of the political affiliation of the subset of each website’s readership that clicks on polls… at best.

They are – to put it nicely – what the bull deposits in the pasture after he’s eaten his fill of grass.

Neither Manz nor David Urban, Trump’s senior advisor in Pennsylvania,  responded to request to comment.

That we have a Presidential campaign that seriously conflates scientific polls with clickbait – and expects responsible reporters to peddle such garbage to American citizens – is a sign of just how far we’ve sunk this election.

Trump poll 3Why such a fuss? Because basic literacy in science and math is essential. American jobs increasingly require advanced science and math skills; that’s why schools in cities like Pittsburgh focus so intently on STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Our culture – from our smart phones to the doctor’s office – rests upon a foundation of sound science and math.

Americans must be able to distinguish between competence and a cow pat.

The greatest country on Earth cannot endure for long if its citizens are ignorant of basic science. America’s leaders – regardless of party – must foster such literacy or they will “lead” us into decline.

Yet Trump and his campaign promote clickbait as if it were science.

The Republican party should be deeply ashamed.

This was first posted Sept. 28, 2016 at 9:43 a.m.

Clinton produces ‘Trump Road Show’ for Pennsylvania


The Trump Road Show has come to Pennsylvania… at least in the form of a website that the Hillary Clinton campaign launched Thursday morning to highlight Trump business dealings they find questionable. is a clearing house of Trump’s history of job creation in foreign countries, which lists many of the foreign-made products he produces to further his brand and notes specific places in Pennsylvania where they could be made.

The roll-out criticizing Trump’s outsourcing comes the same day that Pittsburgh native Tom Vilsack, President Barack Obama’s Secretary of Agriculture, will tour rural Southwestern Pennsylvania to promote Clinton’s candidacy and outline Trump’s business record.

The campaign said Vilsack will “point to Trump’s failed business record and fraudulent promises as reasons why voters should reject Trump in November and instead back Hillary Clinton, who has real plans to boost U.S. manufacturing, crack down on corporations who ship jobs overseas, and support small businesses,” in an emailed press release.

The Clinton campaign – noting Trump tie clips, cufflinks, vodka, mirrors, suits and barware are all made overseas – says he cares more for his self promotion than American workers.

Clinton currently holds a comfortable 10 percentage point lead over Trump in Pennsylvania according to the latest Quinnipiac University battleground survey.

That lead comes as Trump has revamped his campaign for a third time, bringing in new leadership, an evolving view on immigration, what’s touted as outreach to the African American community and a more polished candidate on the stump.

Clinton faces growing unrest among the press as she has gone over 260 days without holding a press conference – despite new revelations the FBI found 15,000 new emails in its investigation of her and a federal judge’s order that the State Department hasten their release.

This story was first posted 11:45 a.m. Thursday, August 25 2016

Who ya gonna call? Trumpbusters!

Jason Bloomberg, 55, of Cheyenne, Wyo. sports an array of buttons as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.
Jason Bloomberg, 55, of Cheyenne, Wyo. sports an array of buttons as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.


Jason Bloomberg says he’s a “walking billboard” for defeating Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump in November.

His vest was covered with political buttons Wednesday as he walked through a concourse at Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center during the Democratic National Convention.

Jason Bloomberg, 55, of Cheyenne, Wyo. sports an array of buttons as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.
Jason Bloomberg, 55, of Cheyenne, Wyo. sports an array of buttons as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.

More than a dozen of them were emblazoned with the word “Trumpbusters” and an image resembling the logo from the movie “Ghostbusters” – except that the ghost bore a remarkable resemblance to Trump, including his signature sweep of orange hair.

“Our democracy is facing the threat of a Trump presidency,” said Bloomberg, 55, a Hillary Clinton delegate from of Cheyenne, Wyo. “Nothing is progressive about Donald Trump. We need to bust him.”

Bloomberg drove 1,300 miles from Cheyenne to Philadelphia in an electric car, with a fellow Wyoming delegate riding shotgun. He said his car was adorned with anti-Trump messages.

During their 3½-day trip, the Wyoming Trumpbusters stopped many times and struck up conversation with people.

“It was wonderful. Even a lot of Republicans out there don’t like Trump,” Bloomberg said.

This story was first posted Thursday, July 28, 2016 at 10:50 a.m.

DePasquale calls Trump’s Russia request ‘Looney-Tunes’

Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale addresses Pennsylvania delegates at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on Wednesday, July 27.
Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale addresses Pennsylvania delegates at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on Wednesday, July 27.


“The world of crazy land, Looney-Tunes, Bugs Bunny,” said Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale at a luncheon for Pennsylvania delegates to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia as he informed them of the latest Donald Trump statement.

DePasquale recounted how during a press conference earlier in the day, the Republican presidential candidate looked into the cameras and asked Russian officials, who American security experts believe to be behind the hacking of Democratic party computers, to look for Hillary Clinton’s emails.

“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” Trump said.

Clinton’s senior policy advisor Jake Sullivan responded: “This has to be the first time that a major presidential candidate has actively encouraged a foreign power to conduct espionage against his political opponent. That’s not hyperbole, those are just the facts. This has gone from being a matter of curiosity, and a matter of politics, to being a national security issue.”

The Associated Press reported members of the Republican Party leadership denounced Trump’s statement.

Former CIA director Leon Panetta told CNN Trump’s statement was “totally outrageous.”

“Asking Russia to engage in American politics,” he said, “that’s beyond the pale.”

“I wish I was making this up,” DePasquale said, characterizing Trump’s campaign as “a world of conspiracy theories and hate mongering.”

“It is up to all of us not to just be against Donald Trump – in my opinion, that’s easy – it’s also about being behind Hillary Clinton because it’s about moving the country forward,” he told delegates.

DePasquale said “it’s easy to forget January 2009 and January 1993,” when Democratic presidents had to begin cleaning up “major messes” left by Republican presidents, but cleaning up after a Trump presidency would be monumental.

“I just can’t imagine it,” he said.

This story was first posted Wednesday, July 27, 2016 at 2:11 p.m.


Sen. Casey makes the case against Trump at Democratic National Convention

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey talks to Pennsylvania delegates at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on Monday, July 25, 2016.
U.S. Sen. Bob Casey talks to Pennsylvania delegates at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on Monday, July 25, 2016.


In a night marked by soaring speeches that called for party unity, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey calmly portrayed Republican nominee Donald Trump as a hypocrite in his brief remarks Monday to the Democratic National Convention.

“The man who wants to make America great again doesn’t make anything in America,” Casey said.

“Donald Trump says he stands for workers and that he’ll put America first, but that’s not how he has conducted himself in business,” Casey said, noting that Trump’s company makes dress shirts in Bangladesh, furniture in Turkey, picture frames in India, wine glasses in Slovenia and neck ties in China.

“Why would Donald Trump make his products in every corner of the globe but not in Altoona, Erie or here in Philadelphia?” said Casey, a Democrat from Scranton who is in his second term in Washington.

Casey’s well-received speech was overshadowed by ones given later in the night by party leaders such as U.S. Sens. Bernie Sanders and Cory Booker and First Lady Michelle Obama.

“It was a great lineup. What a contrast to whatever that was in Cleveland last week,” Casey said Tuesday morning.

In contrast to Trump, Casey described presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton as a “leader with a proven track record of fighting for an economy that works for all of us.”

Casey also described her running mate, U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, as “a man with great integrity.”

“I’m not too objective (about Kaine) because I’m a big fan of his. Even someone who doesn’t want to vote for him would grant that he’s a very competent individual,” Casey told the Tribune-Review, pointing out how Kaine has served as a city councilman, mayor, lieutenant governor, governor, U.S. senator and vice presidential candidate.

Among work on which they have collaborated, Casey, Kaine and two other Democratic senators earlier this month sent a letter to the Federal Reserve asking for it to consider easing reporting requirements on some banks — including PNC Bank and Bank of New York, which both have Pittsburgh ties.

Under the Dodd-Frank financial reform act, banks with at least $250 million in assets are required daily to report their liquidity, or ability to cover their debts. The requirement was deemed a way to limit fallout from a future financial panic.

Charles Chamberlain, executive director of the Vermont-based political action committee Democracy for America, told The Washington Post that the request would “help banks dodge consumer-protection standards and regulations designed to prevent banks from destroying our economy.”
Casey disagreed, arguing that the changes called for in his letter would help remove an “onerous” requirement on certain banks. PNC Bank, the nation’s seventh-largest financial institution, has assets of $351 billion and the Bank of New York Mellon, the eighth largest, has assets of $324 billion, according to Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation data.

This story was first posted Tuesday, July 26, 2016 at 12:25 p.m.

Clinton campaign emphasizes different convention tone


PHILADELPHIA – Hillary Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook promised reporters the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia “is going to be optimistic, it’s going to be hopeful and it’s going to be talking about specific plans,” as protesting Bernie Sanders supporters shouted their displeasure to passing delegates entering the convention center downtown.

Mook said this convention would have a fundamentally different tone than the darkness of the GOP convention in Cleveland last week where Texas Sen. Ted Cruz walked off the stage to boos when he failed to endorse the nominee, Donald Trump.

“Boy, was it depressing, it was all doom and gloom,” Mook said of the Republican National Convention. “Our convention is going to be optimistic, it’s going to be hopeful,” he said.

“Sen. Bernie Sanders has already endorsed Secretary Clinton, he is coming to double-down on that endorsement,” Mook said of Clinton’s primary rival.

Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon said there will be a full roll-call vote of all of the delegations on Tuesday, something that Sanders supporters stressed they wanted to have as part of the convention. The roll-call will give them a moment to publicly demonstrate Sanders’ presence at the event.

“It is exactly in keeping with our philosophy that every vote should be counted, and that means every delegate being counted on the floor of the convention,” Fallon said.

Sanders will speak Monday evening along with First Lady Michelle Obama.

Fallon said outgoing DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s decision not to speak after she announced her resignation Sunday was her own and that Clinton had nothing to do with it.

As far as Trump goes, Mook told reporters to ignore polls showing him with a convention bump following his acceptance: “I’d suspend any polling analysis until after the convention.”

This story was first posted Monday, July 25, 2016 at 1:12 p.m.

Musicians to politicians: Stop playing that rock & roll

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump arrives on stage Monday, July 18, 2016, the first day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.  (AFP/Getty Images)
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump arrives on stage Monday, July 18, 2016, the first day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. (AFP/Getty Images)


Rock & roll is anti-establishment. Donald Trump is anti-establishment. But that doesn’t mean people in rock & roll want to be associated with Trump.

Cleveland’s Rock & Roll Hall of Fame said Wednesday that “no one has had more challenges with using artists’ music than Donald Trump.”

Neil Young asked Trump to stop playing “Rockin’ in the Free World” at his campaign events, while Allee Willis asked him to stop playing Karate Kid’s “You’re the Best.” Steven Tyler of Aerosmith asked him to stop playing the band’s “Dream On,” and R.E.M. asked him to pull the plug on using “It’s the End of the World As We Know It.”

Just this week Queen asked the Republican nominee for president to stop playing “We Are the Champions,” after he made a rock-star style appearance to the tune the first night of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.


Musicians have asked other politicians to stop playing their music. Bruce Springsteen objected to Ronald Reagan playing “Born in the U.S.A.;” Bobby McFerrin opposed George H.W. Bush using “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” and Issac Hayes cringed when Bob Dole reworked the R&B classic “I’m a Soul Man” to create “I’m a Dole Man.”

Sting told Al Gore to quit playing “Brand New Day,” while Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine objected to House Speaker Paul Ryan even being a fan of his music. This week, Morello participated in a protest march in Cleveland and performed with rap icon Chuck D. of Public Enemy.

Coincidentally, Morello and Chuck D.’s supergroup Prophets of Rage named its current tour “Make America Rage Again,” a play on Trump’s slogan “Make America Great Again.”

This story was first posted July 20, 2016 at 11:45 a.m.

GOP Convention, Day Three: ‘Make America First Again’


The Republican National Convention in Cleveland, which is turning out to be anything but conventional, continues with a program Wednesday centered on the theme “Make America First Again.” Speakers generally will focus on how Republicans will return the United States to being “a beacon of progress and opportunity.”

The evening’s headliner will be Trump’s running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence. Trump’s son, Eric, will continue the convention’s tactic of allowing family members to articulate why voters should support Trump.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas will speak, as will former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Celebrity speakers will include conservative talk-radio host Laura Ingraham and Eileen Collins, the first woman to command a Space Shuttle mission.

Off camera, the dispute with members of the Republican party who do not support Trump continues to roil.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich cancelled a Wednesday morning speech before Pennsylvania delegates after state chairman Rob Gleason blasted Kasich and other prominent Republicans for not falling into line behind the nominee.

Trump’s campaign manager Paul Manafort spent much of Monday criticizing Kasich in the media – to the point Ohio leaders began to push back in defense of their popular governor.

Donald Trump almost certainly needs to win Ohio to gain the White House.

Alienating the people of Ohio, the Plain Dealer wrote, shows how not to kick off a convention.

This story was first posted July 20, 2016 at 11:20 a.m.

PA delegate: Kasich is ‘Hamlet of the Cuyahoga’

Ohio Gov. John Kasich talks to the Tribune-Review in his Columbus, Ohio offices on Monday, March 30, 2015  Stephanie Strasburg photo.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich talks to the Tribune-Review in his Columbus, Ohio offices on Monday, March 30, 2015 Stephanie Strasburg photo.


Ohio Gov. John Kasich backed out of a planned appearance at the Pennsylvania GOP’s delegate breakfast Wednesday, citing scheduling conflicts.

“I’m glad he canceled his speech. What’s the point of having him here?” said Pennsylvania delegate Marc Scaringi of Cumberland County’s Camp Hill.

Kasich, a McKees Rocks native, won 120 delegates in the presidential race but declined to endorse Trump after suspending his campaign following a lopsided loss in April’s Pennsylvania primary. He has been a vocal critic of Trump since.

“I call him the Hamlet of the Cuyahoga,” Scaringi said, referring to Shakespeare’s tragic hero and Northeast Ohio’s winding river.

Scaringi said Kasich’s disaffection appears to have spread to Ohio’s 66 delegates, all of whom cast their votes for Kasich in Tuesday’s roll-call vote. Pennsylvania cast 70 of its 71 votes for Trump, with one vote going to U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.

“We didn’t get a warm welcome from the Ohio delegation,” Scaringi said.
The two delegations sit beside each other on the convention floor. While Pennsylvania and other delegations often sprang out of their seats during the convention to celebrate the occasion, Scaringi said the Ohio delegation “sat down a lot.”

“We’re hopeful that they turn the page,” Scaringi said.

Trump’s campaign manager Paul Manafort spent much of the first day of the convention criticizing Kasich in the media – to the point Ohio leaders began to publicly push back on the Trump campaign in defense of their popular governor.

Donald Trump almost certainly needs to win Ohio to gain the White House.

Alienating the people of Ohio, the Plain Dealer wrote, shows how not to kick off a convention.

This story was first posted on July 20, 2016, at 9:14 a.m.