Analysis: Pennsylvania heartland could spell trouble for Hillary Clinton

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks during a campaign stop, Friday, April 22, 2016, in Dunmore, Pa. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

WASHINGTON (MEDIA GENERAL) – The way Hillary Clinton speaks it’s as if her last gig wasn’t secretary of state but mayor of Scranton, Pennsylvania.

Scranton is the hardscrabble city in Northeastern Pennsylvania with Clinton family connections.

Secretary Clinton spent childhood summers on Diamond Avenue in the city where her father was raised. Vice President Joe Biden lived in Scranton until he was eight.

It’s a place politicians want to be from as Scranton represents America “can do” and a hard work ethic where people use their hands and their brains.

Along with Wilkes-Barre, 20 minutes south of Scranton, the two places may make up the political center of this fall’s presidential election.

And that could spell trouble for Clinton. Family ties or not.

Wilkes-Barre is the county seat of Luzerne County, where Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, received 77 percent of the votes in Pennsylvania’s April primary with two GOP opponents actively competing. In Lackawanna County, where Scranton is the county seat, he received almost 70 percent of the Republican vote.

On the Democratic side, in Luzerne County, Clinton received only 51 percent of the vote against one opponent, Democrat socialist Bernie Sanders. In Lackawanna County, Clinton garnered 55 percent.

What to read from that? There’s voter intensity for Trump where Clinton is clearly lacking. Trump’s road to the White House starts and may end in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

Donald Trump in Wilkes-Barre, Pa.
Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally Monday, April 25, 2016, in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

Having said that it won’t be easy. Pennsylvania hasn’t voted for a Republican for president in almost 30 years when George H.W. Bush beat Mike Dukakis in 1988.

In 2016, if Trump can crack Pennsylvania, his road to the White House is very attainable. It makes the math to get the needed 270 votes in the Electoral College much easier.

Clinton’s scrappy ways of the 2008 campaign, throwing back shots of Crown Royal in Pennsylvania saloons, made her the darling of the blue collar crowd.

But Trump may trump her this time around in a general election campaign where “Make America Great Again,” Trump’s mantra, may go down as smoothly as those Crown Royal shots.

“He has stayed on a steady path and meant what he’s said from day one,” Nicole Trevaskis of Shavertown told WNEP-TV when Trump recently spoke at a rally in Wilkes-Barre Township.

It’s not far-fetched to see those red hats emblazoned with Trump’s campaign slogan adorned on the older set, mostly men, in Northeastern Pennsylvania senior centers in places such as Pittston and Carbondale.

There had been a time when Republicans stumped for president in upstate Pennsylvania. That ended 15 years ago as Pennsylvania became reliably Democratic for the third time in a row and the Grand Old Party gave up on the Keystone State.

When you look at interactive maps such as 270towin.com, a Trump Pennsylvania victory is the keystone to his chances. Pennsylvania plus Ohio plus Michigan. Trump doesn’t need a jet. He needs a bus to drive through the rust belt.

Political pundits in the corridors of the Capitol and K Street executive suites can’t quite make sense of Trump but they’ve proven their prevailing wisdom has just been plain wrong.

There are 17 reasons why. Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, Rand Paul, Carly Fiorina…

Those vanquished opponents scoffed and chortled in Trump’s direction.

Clinton may consider herself sort of an honorary mayor of Scranton but, if she doesn’t figure out Trump, in eight short months, he may be its president and hers.

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