In the Democratic fortress of Philadelphia, Donald Trump is persona non grata.
But in the densely populated suburban counties around Philadelphia, Trump supporters believe they can be the swing vote that delivers the reliably blue state to the Republican nominee for the first time in nearly three decades.
“He is the only Republican candidate out of the original 17 that has the ability to win Pennsylvania,” said Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Gale. “It really is in play. He will do well in the suburbs surrounding Philadelphia, maybe he won’t win them, but he’ll hold his own enough that he can win statewide.”
Pennsylvania hasn’t been won by a Republican presidential candidate since 1988.
Public Policy Polling found earlier this month that the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Trump are even in Pennsylvania in a head-to-head match, each with 44 perecentt of the vote. Clinton would edge Trump out 41 percent to 40 percent with third-party candidates factored in. A Quinnipiac poll in May found Clinton beating Trump by 1 percent, 43 to 42.
The mostly Republican suburbs mirror those mixed results..
“Trump,” is the answer of Tom Kelly, 58, a resident of Glenolden in Delaware County, when asked who he’s voting for.
“He’s a businessman. He can put people back to work,” said Kelly, a retired roofing, siding, windows and door worker. “When it comes to politics, I’ve gotta give it to Hillary, she has the experience.”
But other residents of the town weren’t so sure.
“I’m voting for Hillary Clinton, only because Biden and Kasich are out. Between Trump and Clinton, it’s the worse of two evils,” said Jack Brady, 65.
“The suburbs are all Republican – but that doesn’t mean they’re going to vote Republican,” said Anthony Pepe, 72, a Glenolden resident who supports Clinton. “[Trump] is a radical to me. We have enough nuts up in Congress.”
But the more politically active believe Trump will appeal to non-Republican voters.
“Donald Trump has a more populist, America-first appeal, which is hitting on demographics of Democrats, Republicans and Independents,” said Bucks County Trump campaign volunteer Jeff McGeary. “He’s speaking up for the working class, dealing with outsourced jobs, which would be a more union or Democrat-type message, but spoken by a Republican.”
McGeary sees the electoral math adding up in Trump’s favor.
“Pittsburgh he can do very well, Philadelphia he can do okay in the city, and fairly well in the surrounding counties, which would be enough to carry the state,” he said.
While every politically incorrect statement Trump makes is another reason for liberals in Philadelphia to despise him, some suburban voters don’t see him that way.
“I received hate mail saying that I was a racist, a bigot, a homophobe, after I endorsed Trump, but I also received positive letters,” Gale said. “Every time they think he put his foot in his mouth and that was the last straw, his numbers go up.”