With its unusual knack for electing politicians from both major parties, the region around Northampton county has a distinctive politics. It also has a distinctive history, as the former home of Bethlehem Steel, which for generations produced plates and beams for warships and skyscrapers – a symbol of American greatness if ever there was one.
Do voters here think Trump has delivered on his promise to “make America great again”? Despite Trump’s repeated proclamations that, thanks to him, the US steel industry is now “booming”, steel in Bethlehem has shown zero signs of resurgence, former workers say.
Frank Behum worked at Bethlehem Steel for 32 years. “The president is a pathological liar,” Behum said on a recent morning near the silent row of rusting blast furnaces that went extinct 25 years ago. “He can’t help himself. He’s been doing it his whole life and getting away with it.”
Some former steelworkers remain supportive of Trump, saying the president is doing his best to jump-start the manufacturing sector in the face of what they see as Democratic obstruction. But the question for Trump here is not whether he can hold his core supporters. It is whether he can expand his appeal enough to overcome lackluster approval ratings and a galvanized Democratic opposition, to find the extra votes he will need for re-election.