But in the details, the threads of this argument begin to fray. For one thing, many voters who switched to the GOP in Pennsylvania this spring were Democrats in name only, having long voted Republican in presidential elections. Neither Polacek, Frear, or Joey Del could remember voting for a Democrat for president in any recent election. When they switched parties, the electoral outcome didn’t exactly change.
Trump’s other problem is the math. “There just aren’t enough rural voters to put him over the top,” said Berwood Yost, director for the Center of Opinion Research at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa. Trump may indeed win Cambria County and others nearby. But Mitt Romney did, too, and he still lost the state to Obama, who won just 12 of the Pennsylvania’s 67 counties four years ago, six fewer than he won in 2008. “In this state, a Republican has got to appeal to moderate Republicans and Republican voters in the southeast part of the state, who are mostly educated and mostly affluent,” Yost said. “And I don’t know that we’re seeing that sort of appeal from Trump.”
Still, on the ground in western Pennsylvania, there’s an enthusiasm gap that’s palpable. Since Trump’s nomination became clear, Republicans have added nearly 17,000 more voters statewide than Democrats. The local Republican party office, in that strip mall, has a list of more than 125 people waiting for Trump signs. On a recent afternoon, a volunteer called the folks on that list to tell them they had a single Trump bumper sticker and button waiting for them, as a way to thank them for their patience.
“Can I take two?” one man asked when he came in.
The volunteer told him no. “Unfortunately, I have to ration them.”