By Jeffrey Lord
The room in the local tavern – “Boomerang” by name – was packed with Trump supporters, the parking lot filled to capacity. Above the parked cars, the tavern’s gigantic, impossible-to-miss neon sign that towered over the nearby busy interstate highway flashed a red screen with the words “Trump 2020.”
Inside the tavern there was a sea of red hats. Trump-tee shirts were everywhere. And at the center of the room, above the bar, two large screen televisions were back- to-back ensuring a clear view of the Trump announcement rally in Orlando, Florida. The TV was, of course, tuned to Fox. I was asked to sign someone’s hat and it was pointed out to me that there was already one signature on the brim. I looked. It read: “Sean Hannity.” It was a souvenir from an earlier Trump appearance in nearby Harrisburg, where Sean was present to host Trump on his show.
As I stood on the side of the room chatting with some of the attendees, a voice arose calling attention to the screen. Out walked President Donald Trump with First Lady Melania – and the tavern erupted in cheers and applause. The volume was cranked up and as if on command the room fell silent.
Silent for the duration of the event as the on-screen President spoke- except for frequent outbreaks of more cheering and more applause. The introduction of out-going White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders brought a loud burst of cheers.
What was notable about this event was its location – the middle of Pennsylvania. And while there were local television crews there, this “Trump Watch Party” went unnoticed by the national media, understandably focused on the big event in Orlando. (Except, of course, CNN – which cut away from the decidedly newsworthy Trump kickoff rally six minutes in because the crowd had erupted spontaneously into a cry of “CNN sucks.” So much for the formerly “Most Trusted Name in News.”)
One political analyst after another over the last few months has – correctly – made much of the significance Pennsylvania will have in the 2020 election. With that in mind, the Trump gathering in the “Boomerang” tavern was an early indicator of the battle ahead.
Here is a primer on Pennsylvania. There are 67 counties in the state, the two largest being Philadelphia County and Allegheny County (Pittsburgh.) Both are teeming with Democrats. Suburban Philadelphia – divided into the four counties of Montgomery, Bucks, Delaware and Chester – were once Republican strongholds. Now populated with liberal Republicans these heavily populated counties joined Philadelphia and Allegheny in voting for Hillary Clinton.
Here’s why this gathering Tuesday night was significant. In 2016 those six counties were joined by only five others in voting for Clinton. Which meant that of the 67 counties, Donald Trump carried 56, Clinton a mere 11. And the way Trump defeated that coalition of Democrats and liberal Republicans was to so motivate his voters in the 56 counties that a tidal wave of counties with smaller populations came together as one to overwhelm the two big counties and the nine others.
The very motivated crowd of Trump supporters at this Trump Watch Party came from the two counties where that tavern almost straddles the county line between York and Cumberland counties. In 2016, Trump supporters in York County came out in droves, overwhelming Clinton with over 62% of the vote. In neighboring Cumberland County, where I live, Trump won with almost 57%. That pattern was replicated across the state in those Trump-supporting smaller counties -with one after another and another giving Trump margins like these:
66%: Adams County – home to Gettysburg
74%: Armstrong County in Western Pennsylvania
82%: Bedford County in West Central Pennsylvania
71%: Blair County – home to Altoona
84%: Fulton County
And on and on went these kind of incredible Trump margins in a state that, to the astonishment of the supposed politically savvy “experts” was painted bright red on election night 2016.
Now compare these same counties with the results in 2012 for GOP nominee Mitt Romney.
The pattern is crystal clear. Mitt Romney simply did not energize enough Pennsylvania voters to carry the state. Everywhere he carried a county he was below the Trump 2016 numbers by three points or six points or seven points. This pattern applies as well to GOP nominees McCain in 2008, Bush in 2004 and 2000, Dole and Bush in 1996 and 1992. In fact, Trump became the first Republican to carry Pennsylvania since then-Reagan Vice President George H. W. Bush carried it in 1988 while running on Reagan’s coattails. Reagan, like Trump, carried Pennsylvania with the same Trump-sized margins in these counties.
Which brings us back to that Trump Watch Party filled with seriously enthusiastic Trump supporters from York and Cumberland counties. These were the people that drove the Trump 2016 margins in those two counties. And collectively, with similarly-Trump inspired voters surging to the polls in those 56 counties, they are the reason Hillary Clinton became the first Democrat nominee in 28 years to lose Pennsylvania.
I spoke with quite a number of them Tuesday night. They are absolutely passionate about Donald Trump. They are well aware that they are viewed as the “deplorables” – and they cheered Trump on when he touched on the subject in his speech. As this is written they are getting organized again for 2020.
Meanwhile? Joe Biden kicked off his campaign in Democratic Allegheny County – Pittsburgh. Crowd size? Six hundred people.
A few weeks earlier Trump appeared in Montoursville in Lycoming County, the crowd size estimated to be around 15,000 – in a town that has a population of 4,777. In 2016, Lycoming County gave Trump over 70% of the vote.
The 2020 election is now on in earnest. And without doubt, the Trump fans in that Pennsylvania tavern Tuesday night are getting ready. They have a serious emotional bond with their candidate – and there are thousands of them all over the state.
One can only wonder whether all those “experts” in the liberal media – they who got the 2016 election completely wrong – will understand what they are seeing in Pennsylvania as this campaign goes forward.
Don’t bet on it.