Pennsylvania was Trump country in 2016. The question in 2019 is, will Pennsylvania deliver the votes for a Trump victory in 2020?
In the match-up between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in 2016, Trump won the state by more than 44,000 votes. The contest turned out to be 48.2% to 47.5% in favor of Trump. With the additions of Wisconsin and Michigan, Trump broke through the blue wall previously responsible for Democrat wins in presidential elections in recent years. The combined margin of votes in favor of Trump in all three states totaled 77,000. So, it was tight in these big states, but he won.
Trump has no intention of losing any of those three states to the Democrat nominee in his bid for re-election. It’s still really far out from election day but his campaign team is lining up a strategy to win re-election even if he loses one or all three of them. With this in mind, President Trump traveled to Montoursville, Pennsylvania to campaign for a Republican running to represent the state’s 12th District. A special election is scheduled for today, the result of Rep.Tom Marino vacating the seat. Trump campaigned for Republican Fred Keller who is running against Democrat Marc Friedenberg.
“There is a crucial election,” he said of Tuesday’s special election before turning to his 2020 reelection bid: “I’ll be here a lot. … Got to win this state.”
“Get out tomorrow. It’s a little bit of a referendum,” Trump said, appearing to refer to his own presidency. “Go get ‘em Fred.”
The 12th District is a solidly Republican district but President Trump isn’t taking any chances. Trump threw some red meat to the enthusiastic crowd and acknowledged the recent polls showing him behind in potential match-ups with some of the 217 Democrats running for their party’s nomination.
“If we’re not smart it’ll end for you the Second Amendment,” Trump said to boos spawned by fears Democrats will enact strict gun-access laws. “No more Second Amendment.”
“The Democrat running for the seat is a radical socialist,” Trump said, referring to Democrat Marc Friedenberg, but never naming him. “The Democrat … wants to open your borders,” he added without providing supporting evidence.
“I don’t know. I think we’re doing very well in Pennsylvania. We won it last time. The polls had us losing Pennsylvania last time and we won,” Trump said on the South Lawn, according to a pool report. “And I expect we’ll win it this time because the coal industry, the steel industry, the car industry, they’re all doing incredibly well.”
This has been described as a quiet race. Neither national party has been actively involved because it is such a strongly Republican district, unaffected by redistricting. It’s a sharp contrast to the election just 14 months ago when Conor Lamb pulled off an upset in Pennsylvania’s 18th District. Something to look for in this special election is what kind of turn-out Independent voters provide. This election is the same day as that of the state’s municipal primaries which are closed to unaffiliated voters. Will Independents be motivated to come out and vote only in the district’s special election? Are Democrats still fired up to get out the vote?
Keller may not have had much support from the national party but he has from GOP leadership in Washington, D.C. and from outside groups.
The outside groups backing Keller include the House Freedom Caucus’ political arm, a PAC affiliated with former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, and Freedom’s Defense Fund. The Club for Growth also spent against one of the GOP contenders before Keller was chosen as the nominee at a party convention in March.
While the national party hasn’t been involved, Keller has been in contact with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Minority Whip Steve Scalise, as well as Trump’s 2020 team, according to Keller campaign manager Jon Anzur. Keller has endorsements from the National Rifle Association, the Chamber of Commerce and the Freedom Caucus (although Anzur did not expect Keller to join the caucus).
And, Keller will reap the benefit of Trump’s continued popularity in the district. Monday night’s campaign rally brought out a crowd said to be larger than the population of Montoursville. Montoursville has a population of about 4,777, and while official numbers aren’t available as I write this Tuesday morning, I heard one supporter on television say the number was about 10,000 in the hangar with an overflow crowd of several thousand more outside.
Joe Biden’s kick-off campaign rally in Philadelphia had a crowd of about 6,000.
Adding to the excitement of the crowd in a packed, over-heated airplane hangar, five people fainted during Trump’s speech.
At least five people fainted during the 7 p.m. stop in Montoursville, forcing Trump to stray from his remarks to continually call for medical help.
“We need a doctor, please,” Trump said after the first supporter dropped during the rally, which was held in an airplane hangar as temperatures in the central Pennsylvania hamlet topped 80 degrees.
“Take your time doctor, take your time,” he added.
Another person fainted 15 minutes later, followed by a third person about 20 minutes later. Two other people required medical attention before the president began talking. President Trump blamed the bright lights in the hangar for raising the temperature.
“Are those lights bright enough? I think that’s why people are going down. Those crazy lights,” he said.
We’ll know the results from this race later tonight.