Anyone writing off Donald Trump in Pennsylvania or, for that matter, in the USA, should consider a couple things likely to play well in the general election.
That’s right, I’m suggesting Trump can beat Hillary Clinton — here and elsewhere.
Don’t stop reading. There’s a case.
To me, Trump’s arsenal of abrasiveness includes a one-two punch that, if landed, earns big points.
First is his argument nobody owns him, an implicit indictment of money in politics. This, despite Trump being all about money, can produce more pop than might be apparent.
Why? Because one of few things American voters, regardless of party, agree on is the corrosive effect of money on elections and public policy.
In a New York Times/CBS News Poll last year, 84 percent of respondents said money too greatly influences campaigns, 78 percent said spending by groups unaffiliated with candidates should be limited, 58 percent said both political parties gain from all this and 55 percent said politicians “most of the time” promote policy directly benefiting donors.
If anything’s cemented in the oh-so-evident anger against the way things are it’s that politicians are elected and policy determined based on connections and contributions, not the needs and wants of taxpayers.
If that issue’s banged over and over, who gets hurt?
Trump, who’s mostly self-funded?
Or Clinton, who throughout her career raised hundreds of millions of dollars from law firms and Wall Street and whose top donors, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, include Goldman Sachs, Citibank and J.P. Morgan?
Does her argument that “there is no example” of her being influenced by the money she takes hold up well or buckle under body blows from Trump?
Punch two is borrowed from Bernie Sanders: Clinton’s high-priced speeches.
Again, even without an implied quid-pro-quo, I bet lots of voters have trouble squaring their everyday lives with (for example) $675,000 for three speeches to Goldman Sachs. Especially since Clinton so far refuses to release transcripts and took fat fees, as she told CNN, because “that’s what they offered.”
Sanders softened her up on this issue. Trump, I expect, hits harder. Something along the lines of, “the only economy she’s interested in improving is hers.”
As to Pennsylvania, Trump won all 67 counties in last week’s GOP primary and got more votes than Clinton in 59 counties, including in 15 of 23 Democratic counties. For example: Bucks, Berks and Lehigh in the east; Greene, Washington and Westmoreland in the west.
Yes, Trump and Clinton were in contested races, not head-to-head. Yes, Clinton got more total votes (25,137). But there are nearly a million more registered Democrats, and Democratic turnout was lighter than Republican turnout.
So an enthusiasm gap here, as elsewhere, and possible stay-home disaffected Sanders supporters could well help Trump.
One more thing: Pennsylvania’s primary is closed. Trump has done far better in open primaries where independents can vote, winning more than a dozen such states as varied as Vermont and Arkansas, Georgia and Illinois. So his actual Pennsylvania support is likely broader than demonstrated last Tuesday.
Everything we know about America’s demographics and Pennsylvania’s penchant for voting Democratic for president (six times in a row, now) suggests Clinton wins the White House and the Keystone State.
But this election cycle has KO’d lots of “everything we know.”
National polling shows a majority of voters neither trust nor like Clinton or Trump, especially Trump.
Still, one of them will win. And the longer Trump defies odds and redefines what’s possible in politics, the better the chances it will be him.
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