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.

Western Pennsylvania woman speaks hard truth to Democrats in Philly


It wasn’t the message they expected or even wanted to hear, but Pennsylvania delegates at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia got an earful from Erin McClelland, of Natrona Heights on Thursday.

McClelland, who’s challenging Republican incumbent Keith Rothfus in the 12th Congressional District, delivered a fiery lunchtime speech exhorting her party leaders to focus more on rural areas and rural needs.

She said people from other states go saucer-eyed when they learn Pennsylvania has two senators, 18 congressmen and not one woman among them.

Female Democratic candidates, she said, labor under the weight of three words: “She can’t win.”

But McClelland didn’t chalk that up to sexism; instead, she said the Democratic party increasingly is pushing away its own rural voters.

Her district is majority Democrat, but increasingly votes Republican.

“These were Democrats. We’re just starting to lose them, and we’re losing more of them every year,” she said.

“The Republican party scares them, and the Democratic party insults them,” McClelland said.

McClelland said if Democrats want to win rural voters away from Donald Trump, they need to show them some respect.

“We call them stupid. They’re not stupid. They are working class people who understand the Constitution incredibly well, are devoted to their faith and work hard,” McClelland said.

Many are fed up with a government “that has lied to them and failed them,” she said. Trump is “saying what they’d like to say to the government.”

McClelland said, “They’re looking for nothing but a fair deal, and they can’t get even that.”

This story was first posted Thursday, July 29, 2016 at 6:31 p.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.


President to address convention Wednesday


President Barack Obama will headline the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia Wednesday.

He will have do well indeed to top the bar set by First Lady Michelle Obama Monday night; her speech won plaudits from Republicans as well as the Democratic faithful.

Vice President Joe Biden will also address the convention, as will vice-presidential nominee Tim Kaine; other speakers include former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, retired Navy Rear Admiral John Hutson, and Jesse Jackson.

Actress Sigourney Weaver will speak, as will Angela Bassett, Gabby Giffords and Mark Kelly. Lenny Kravitz will perform.

The theme for the evening is “Working Together: A Clear Choice.”

The roster of non-celebrity speakers includes Erica Smegielski, whose mother was the principal of Sandy Hook Elementary and was killed while trying to protect her students; Felicia Sanders & Polly Sheppard, two of the three survivors of the Mother Emanuel Church shooting; and Jamie Dorff, whose husband – an Army helicopter pilot – died while on a search and rescue mission in northern Iraq.

This story was posted Wednesday, July 27, 2016 at 10:37 a.m.

Bill Clinton, Meryl Streep top off second day of Democratic National Convention


Former President Bill Clinton will be the headliner for the second night of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.

Clinton’s address will be followed by a video introduced by Actress Meryl Streep, after which Alicia Keys will perform.

Former President Jimmy Carter will offer a video message.

It’s a star-studded end to an evening that features Democratic favorites such as Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and Sen. Chuck Schumer.

Celebrity appearances will include: Elizabeth Banks, Debra Messing, America Fererra, Lena Dunham, Tony Goldwyn and Erika Alexander.

Pittsburgh Police Chief McLay to address Democratic National Convention

Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay
Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay


Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay will address the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia Tuesday night. He is scheduled to speak shortly after 7 p.m. immediately following remarks from former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.

McLay and Holder are the Law & Order aspect of portion of the convention program entitled “Fights of Her Life: Social Justice.” They will be followed by remarks from “Mothers of the Movement,” mothers of black men killed by police over the last several years.

“The reason I accepted the opportunity to speak was because I thought it important that there be a balanced narrative between the needs to improve police community relations, and the need to ensure that police are well supported as they do the difficult and dangerous work we ask of them,” McLay said.

McLay will speak to the convention about Pittsburgh’s efforts to adopt the best practices community policing.

Since being appointed chief in 2014, McLay has made a concerted effort to reach out to the black community in Pittsburgh.

“The Pittsburgh Bureau of Police may have lost its legitimacy in the eyes of some of the communities that we serve, and the sad irony of this is the fact that it doesn’t have to be this way,” McLay said the day he was introduced to the city. “We know a smarter way of policing. We know a better way of policing. We simply have to roll up our sleeves, be willing to adapt to the way that we deliver police services and be willing to change.”

In March 2015 Pittsburgh was chosen as one of six cities nationwide to participate in the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Initiative for Building Community Trust and Justice, which is intended to improve relationships and increase trust between communities and the criminal justice system, as well as to advance the public and scholarly understandings of the issues contributing to those relationships.

This story was first posted Tuesday, July 26, 2016 at 10:35 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.

GOP Convention Day Two: ‘Make America Work Again’


The theme for the second day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland is “Make America Work Again.”

Whoever wrote Melania Trump’s prime time speech will likely be looking for work again. Trump’s third wife and former model is not the first political wife to put a good face on other people’s words, but who’d have guessed they were Michelle Obama’s words?

Several portions of Melania’s speech were lifted verbatim from Michelle Obama’s convention address from 2008.

The faux pas marred an otherwise effective, if somewhat Peronesque, appearance designed to soften the frontrunner’s rough edges.

That program will continue today as Trump family and friends play an even larger role in the evening presentation. The roster includes: Tiffany Trump, Trump’s daughter with Marla Maples; Donald Trump Jr.; Kerry Woolard, manager of Trump Winery; and Natalie Gulbis, an LPGA golfer and author of “The Donald Trump I Know.”

Speakers also will include former primary opponents now working to get Trump elected – New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Dr. Ben Carson.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy will represent the Republican-controlled legislature and no doubt will make the case for Republican control of the White House as well.

Convention speakers generally will focus on Donald Trump’s history as “a successful businessman with a solid record of creating jobs,” according to the convention program.

Those looking for star power will find Kimberlin Brown, former actress on soap operas “The Young and the Restless” and “The Bold and the Beautiful.” She’s also a California avocado farmer.

Scenes from the protests in Cleveland

As a man on a megaphone behind her yelled "Every Muslim goes to Hell!" Rose Hamid, 56, told spectators in Downtown Cleveland "This world doesn't have to be us versus them."
As a man on a megaphone behind her yelled “Every Muslim goes to Hell!” Rose Hamid, 56, told spectators in Downtown Cleveland “This world doesn’t have to be us versus them.” Donald Gilliland photo.


The protests outside the first day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland may have been “a dud,” but they were nothing if not colorful.

God bless the First Amendment: practically all of the people exercising their right to free speech were doing so to promote their particular religious view.

What a gaudy kaleidoscope it was.

NOTE: The following videos contain images and language that may offend.

Rev. Pamela M. Pinkney Butts, 55, who said she was running for President on the “multi-partisan” ticket, appreciated the opportunity to speak about her key issue: ending black-on-black crime.

When a group of men calling themselves the “Bible Believers” lifted signs with anti-Muslim and anti-gay slogans and began yelling things demeaning to blacks and women, Kathy Wray Coleman of the Imperial Women Coalition stepped in to counter the message. Here’s a snippet of the result:

Allyne Holz, 65, of Moorhead, MN, later – using a cane – stepped up in front of the men and began singing “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine…” and other Sunday School songs.

Two women who would not give their names didn’t sing; they kissed: