Tuesday 12 December 2017

Trump goes all out for Pennsylvania but his 'will to power' is tested by the great US divide

Donald Trump’s wife Melania, pictured with their daughter Ivanka, is pencilled in to visit Philadelphia later this week. Photo: Evan Vucci/AP
Donald Trump’s wife Melania, pictured with their daughter Ivanka, is pencilled in to visit Philadelphia later this week. Photo: Evan Vucci/AP

Tim Stanley

It's probably chutzpah for Donald Trump to say he can win Pennsylvania. He has always exerted a kind of 'will to power' - the belief that if he says something will happen, then it will happen.

But Pennsylvania is very tough for a Republican presidential candidate to win - especially this one.

Good poll numbers among farmers and miners make it look competitive.

But like the rest of America, it's a vast, rural, conservative landscape book-ended by two, heavily populated liberal areas - Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.

The cities control the state because they are so darn big, and they don't like Mr Trump, who delivered a speech in Philly's suburbs on Tuesday, at the unlovely Hilton hotel in the King of Prussia township.

Across the road were parked a couple of protesters who have been following Mr Trump around the east coast in a van.

It carries a giant plaster nail with the words 'Screw Trump' painted on it.

As we spoke, a resident slowed down, stuck her head out of the car window and shouted: "Is that jerk speaking here today?"

Back at the hotel, Mr Trump's supporters were enthusiastic.

The queue featured businessmen, housewives, students and retired soldiers - all intelligent, good people.

I spoke with local woman Monique McLaughlin, a nurse and formerly independent voter, who said - cautiously - that her candidate will win Pennsylvania because "he represents the people and not the political elite".

Hillary Clinton's email troubles have raised hopes that Democrats won't bother to vote and that swing voters will go for Mr Trump.

Then there's Brexit, which defied similarly unfavourable polls.

"Brexit showed that common sense can prevail. What [British] people did was a beautiful thing," Karen Fry, Mrs McLaughlin's friend, said.

Thank's for that, Mrs Fry. But it was a very different thing to voting for Donald Trump.

The speech he gave was presidential - by which I mean calm and inoffensive - and put an emphasis upon 'Obamacare', which has caused the cost of health insurance to rise.

There he has a serious, traditionally conservative issue to exploit.

But turn on the television and Mrs Clinton's local campaign is targeting Mr Trump's character rather than his policies.

"I've fought in Kosovo and Iraq and I've always voted Republican," said a veteran in one ad. "But I have two daughters…"

He doesn't have to say any more.

Mr Trump's record of comments on women and ethnic minorities push both demographics beyond his reach.

Melania, his wife, will be visiting Philadelphia later this week, which suggests that the campaign understands the need for a more nuanced approach in Pennsylvania.

But I suspect throwing time and money at Pennsylvania is about projecting a wider image of being on the up, of having momentum.

Nevertheless, the economic issues - the class war stuff - probably works against Mr Trump in Philadelphia.

We hear a lot about the poorer, post-industrialised parts of America in 2016, as the country comes to terms with the effects of globalisation.

But what about those parts of the USA that have benefited from free trade?

America is split in two: Pennsylvania illustrates that divide.

Here, Mrs Clinton enjoys the support of the larger, richer half.

The King of Prussia township was named after a colonial 18th-century inn. Today, it is home to the largest shopping mall in the United States.

Where did many of the mall's products come from? Overseas.

Mr Trump rightly complains that globalisation has caused a haemorrhage of manufacturing jobs - but the flip side is cheap imports and the expansion of the services economy.

For some of its customers, Mr Trump offers not solutions, but embarrassment.

When I badgered one woman to ask her opinion of The Donald, she just shook her head. "No," she said, "no, no, no." (© Daily Telegraph, London)


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