This is not 2012 or even 2008. Donald Trump has dramatically changed not just the Republican Party, but the entire political process. By gathering support from Rust Belt states fed up with bad trade deals and outsourced jobs, Trump may be edging toward a win in November, proving no state is safe simply by their political history.
Take Pennsylvania, which from 2008 to 2012 was a decidedly blue state, but this year Trump has turned it into a swing state. The latest Quinnipiac University poll shows Trump is only one point behind Hillary Clinton in Pennsylvania, 42 to 41 percent, as voters prefer Trump’s integrity consistently.
While historically Pennsylvania has been a near throw away for Republicans, Trump has changed the makeup of the electoral field to make it a key campaigning area.
Consider this. If Mitt Romney had won the 67 electoral votes from Florida, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, he would have had the 270 votes needed to secure his spot as president. Although the same Quinnipiac polls shows Trump losing Florida by 8 percent, it shows a 40 to 40 percent split with Clinton in Ohio.
That puts Trump in a better position than anyone thinks. It completely discounts the prominence of traditional “must win” states for Republicans such as Virginia, Nevada, Colorado and New Hampshire.
Suddenly, Pennsylvania is extremely relevant. Without it, a Democrat’s path to victory in the electoral college is very much in question.
Luckily for Trump solidifying support in this state might be easier than ever, as Clinton’s own record is finally working against her. For Pennsylvanians looking for work in their home state, Clinton is the symbol for all of their struggles because she supported the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) — forcing millions of manufacturing jobs to be shifted abroad.The Economic Policy Institute found in 2011 based on U.S. Census Bureau data that due to NAFTA’s implementation Mexico took over 26,300 jobs just from Pennsylvania.
Clinton has obviously now begun speaking out on the campaign trail of the negative aspects of this free trade agreement her husband implemented, but this is a new opinion based on Clinton’s past record. During a crucial meeting to draft NAFTA in 1993 meeting attendeesare quoted as saying “[Clinton’s] remarks were totally pro-NAFTA and what a good thing it would be for the economy. There was no equivocation for her support for NAFTA at the time.” Clinton not only supported the legislation but she assisted in its passing.
1993 might seem like a long way back to pull an attack on Clinton, but her support reached far beyond this era. In 2003 Clinton wrote in her first memoir “although unpopular with labor unions, expanding trade opportunities was an important administration goal,” and voted in favor of more trade with Singapore and Chile. She continued in Jan. 2004 via teleconference to say “I think on balance NAFTA has been good for New York and America,” despite heavy loss in upstate New York manufacturing jobs. In 2004 she also voted in favor of Australian and Moroccan trade agreements.
In fact, it was only in later 2007 and 2008 when Clinton decided free trade was not a bright spot in her campaign and decided to turn her back on a decade of strong positioning. But even this, she has not done well, Clinton has been an avid supporter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership(TPP), essentially the new NAFTA, spreading the NAFTA trade zone with the United States to nations across the Pacific Ocean.
In 2012 Clinton as Secretary of State spoke in Singapore on the benefits of the TPP and worked to gain support across the nation. However, trade with TPP countries has already had as devastating an impact on jobs as NAFTA. The Economic Policy Institute in March 2016 found that in 2015 Pennsylvania lost 68,900 jobs due the incurred trade deficit the state experienced with TPP nations.
In the Quinnipiac poll, voters in both Pennsylvania and Ohio say Trump would be better at creating jobs, 52 to 39 percent. Those numbers are devastating for Clinton. If Trump can successfully portray Clinton has been a driving force in taking jobs out of Pennsylvania and Ohio, November could tilt to Trump’s favor.
All Trump must do is capitalize on Clinton’s trade record. Luckily, he has had already some assistance in priming the electorate on the issue. Bernie Sanders gained support in Rust Belt states like Michigan and Ohio by exposing Clinton’s record on trade agreements.
Clinton has already lost support due to her deceitful actions by keeping classified information on a private email server. Trump can turn that distrust to his advantage. Tying the trade issue to a question of whether American workers can trust Hillary Clinton to negotiate trade deals could be a devastating combination.
As Pennsylvania becomes a possible must have in the general election, it represents the opportunity for Trump that neither Romney nor McCain ever had. By campaigning fiercely in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and throughout the Rust Belt, Trump can build a coalition to win the electoral college without the traditional swing states and instead — by gaining support in some very key blue states.