- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 2, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Pennsylvania suddenly seems winnable for Donald Trump.

Its trunkful of Electoral College votes would likely to be the ones that propel Mr. Trump right past Hillary Clinton and straight into the Oval Office, some analysts say.

The Keystone State is the white whale that has eluded every GOP nominee for the last six presidential elections, stranding them broken-hearted, with the same broken promise ringing in their ears: “This time will be different.”

Republicans think they have a realistic shot this time for two reasons. One is that polls are showing a slip in voter enthusiasm for Hillary Clinton since FBI Director James Comey announced he is reopening the investigation into her handling of classified emails on a private server.

The other reason is a belief in hidden Trump voters — Republicans, Democrats and independents — who see themselves as having been bamboozled into low-paying jobs by U.S. politicians who see eye-to-eye with a global business elite. These disaffected Trump-backers seem to be, as one astonished GOP official in Pennsylvania put it, “coming out of the woodwork” for the tycoon in parts of the state that are heavily unionized and traditionally vote Democratic.


SEE ALSO: Donald Trump leads by 3 percentage points in latest Virginia poll


“Comey has made half the difference,” said Bob Asher, a Republican National Committee member from Pennsylvania. “The other 50 percent is some Republicans and independents probably deciding that Trump is a better bet or they just don’t want Hillary.”

Mr. Asher thinks it’s possible the GOP presidential nominee this time will lose by only 400,000 instead of the usual 600,000 votes deficit the GOP candidate faces in Philadelphia and its white, middle-class suburban counties combined.

He said if that happens, “this state is definitely in play. Trump probably will lose Philadelphia’s four ‘collar’ counties as well as Allegheny, Erie, Centre, Northampton, Lackawanna — but by smaller margins than usual. Trump will take the other 57 counties,” Mr. Asher said.

A map of Pennsylvania shows it almost completely red from one end to the other with a tiny number of blue blotches. These include heavily black Philadelphia and its four populous suburban “collar” counties, with highly educated, affluent and mostly socially-liberal white populations.

Democrats and Republicans alike in the state appear to agree that the billionaire businessman will have little trouble claiming most of the state, but the 10 heavily populated counties will make or break his bid.

Trump would pocket the state’s 20 Electoral College votes if you didn’t count the votes from Philadelphia and suburbs in the east,” said Tony May, a Harrisburg-based Democratic publicist.

“I’m looking last two elections — a huge turnout in Philly with its strong African-American community and Hispanic Americans,” said Mr. May. “If they turn out anywhere close to the last two elections, Hillary will win. But [if not], she won’t have the votes to overcome the Trump votes in the rest of the state.”

Hard-nosed GOP analysts aren’t ready to bet the farm yet on a Pennsylvania win, but still can’t help thinking that yes, maybe this is the year the party will do it.

“Pennsylvania remains a tall order for Trump, but he could win here — it’s plausible this time — and if he does, he wins the election, probably by a landslide,” said Charlie Gerow, a Pennsylvania lawyer and political analyst. “He can win without Pennsylvania — if he takes a couple or three blue states in addition to Florida, Ohio, New Mexico, Nevada, New Hampshire, Iowa and all the states Romney won last time. But Pennsylvania’s 20 Electoral College votes give him more wiggle room.”

Almost all analysts agree Mr. Trump can win all the states Mitt Romney won in 2012 and Ohio, Florida, Iowa and Illinois and still fall short of the requisite 270 votes in the electoral college. He’ll need a big state that normally goes Democratic — like Michigan with its 16 electoral colleges votes or Wisconsin with its 10 would help. But Pennsylvania alone, with its 20 electoral votes, could spell “President Trump.”

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