- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 11, 2016

Just about everything is going wrong for Donald Trump in Pennsylvania, and to fix it this week he sent Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, his staunchly conservative running mate who has roughly zero appeal to disaffected Democrats and swing voters that they need to turn the state red.

The deployment of Mr. Pence, who is popular with conservative activists but otherwise provokes yawns on the national stage, underscored the Trump campaign’s lopsided strategy to pry the state out of the clutches of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

Trump supporters and voters on the fence want to see the main attraction — Donald Trump — and they need to see him in the Philadelphia suburbs and central Pennsylvania as well as in the western coal country where he has staked the campaign, said Ryan Shafik, a conservative political strategist in the Keystone State.

“I like Mike Pence, but nobody cares about Mike Pence,” Mr. Shafik told The Washington Times. “You know who knows Mike Pence? You, me and maybe a hundred activists.”

Beyond the lack of personal attention, Mr. Trump’s efforts in Pennsylvania are frustrated by the campaign’s lack of organization on the ground, the complete absence of TV advertising and divisions within the state Republican Party over Mr. Trump that threaten to keep activists on the sidelines.

These deficiencies have turned a state that Mr. Trump swept in the Republican primary and vowed to put in the red column this year into a place where his support is fading even in solidly Republican central Pennsylvania.

Mr. Trump is scheduled to make a personal appearance at a rally Friday in Erie as he continues to target a Democratic stronghold in western Pennsylvania with his America-first trade agenda.

The message has resonated with blue-collar workers across the Rust Belt and has been the driving force behind the New York billionaire’s bid to scramble the electoral map.

Mr. Trump runs much stronger in western Pennsylvania than 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney, who lost counties on the east and west sides of Pennsylvania when President Obama took the state with 52 percent of the vote.

Mr. Trump must broaden his appeal, especially in the heavily populated Bucks and Chester counties outside Philadelphia, to be the first Republican to win Pennsylvania since George H.W. Bush in 1988.

“I don’t see any evidence of activity here,” said Mr. Shafik. “I live in Bucks County, and I can tell you — there’s always some people supporting him, and I get that — but where he picks up a vote out west where Romney didn’t, he loses two out east.”

University of Pittsburgh political science professor Kristin Kanthak said Mr. Trump is wise to send Mr. Pence because the governor comes across as a “voice of reason” on the ticket who can appeal to undecided voters or voters leaning toward Mrs. Clinton who are still persuadable.

She also said the move smacks of desperation.

Trump himself is continuing to excite his base, but his base is not enough to win a general election,” Ms. Kanthak said. “I’d call deploying Pence to Pennsylvania a smart move, but it has to be understood as something as a Hail Mary pass, given the trouble Trump is having in the polls here right now.”

Mr. Trump has fallen further behind in the polls in Pennsylvania, mirroring his slide nationally from a post-convention bounce after got into a spat with a Muslim Gold Star family that supports Mrs. Clinton.

The former secretary of state this week expanded her lead over Mr. Trump to 11 points, 48 percent to 37 percent, in a Marist Poll of likely Pennsylvania voters. She previously led by 9 points in the poll.

She made the gains with the help of increased support from people who describe themselves as political moderates. She is topping Mr. Trump by 19 points with this group, up from a 14-point advantage in July.

The Quinnipiac University swing state poll released Tuesday showed Mr. Trump down by 10 points in Pennsylvania, 52 percent to 42 percent. Both had low favorably ratings: 44 percent for Mrs. Clinton and 36 percent for Mr. Trump.

“Let’s face it: Pennsylvania’s likely voters are not exactly enthralled with either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump,” said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the poll. “Trump, who portrays himself as a job creator, is suddenly paddling upstream in a state that needs jobs. That has to be a red flag.”


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