Hillary Clinton makes push for victory in ‘firewall’ state

Democrat must shore up vote in urban and suburban Pennsylvania to shut out Trump


Among the yellowing and browning leaves along the roads of Bucks County, Pennsylvania, there are more Trump than Clinton signs, but you will not find one outside Tabora Farm & Orchard near the town of Dublin.

There are large crates of freshly picked Macintosh and Golden Delicious apples, and row after row of pumpkins ready to be carved for Halloween, but nothing to show how owners Caleb and Patricia Torrice might be voting in the US presidential election in 15 days’ time.

“As business owners, we are Switzerland, ” said Caleb (41), taking a break on Saturday afternoon as his country store did a brisk trade in cookies, blueberry pies and other home-baked products.

“There are other business owners who will gladly put a Trump or Hillary sign out, but that is something I will never do. No matter what I do I’m going to piss off 50 per cent of my customers. It is not worth it.”

This is a bedroom community for Philadelphia, an hour’s drive south. The area is home to conservative farmers, small business owners and professional commuters heading to the big cities, making it a swing county within a battleground state and a bellwether overall for the election. A Hillary Clinton victory in Pennsylvania should end Donald Trump’s chances.

Evenly balanced

“Around here you have a lot of rural homes, so they are very pro-gun. The people I run into are generally conservative farmers and business owners so the people I talk to are definitely more pro-Trump,” said Caleb.

“We chat to people inside and they are appalled by Trump, so it is really a mix around here,” said Patricia (44).

In the 2012 election, Bucks, one of the four “collar counties” around Philadelphia, was Barack Obama’s narrowest county victory over Mitt Romney and a critical part of the Keystone State for the Democrats.

The party has relied on the heavily Democratic areas of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh in the western part of the state and their suburbs to win every presidential election in Pennsylvania since 1992. Philadelphia, where Obama won a fifth of his vote in the state, Bucks and the other suburban counties are must-wins for Clinton to offset Trump’s large support in blue-collar western and rural central Pennsylvania.

The views among Tabora’s customers are mixed.

“All my family, Republicans and Democrats, are voting for Clinton,” said Christy Venters (46), a teacher leaving the store with her son after picking up some cookies. “They think Trump is an idiot.”

Misty Tanksley (29), a teacher, and her friend Laura Maffin (26), a nanny, are both Republicans but still undecided. Tanksley said she was sure she was not voting for Clinton.

“I think she is a hypocrite about a lot of things,” she said.

Jonathan Wallis (54), who works in state government, is thinking of writing in the name of Clinton’s Democratic challenger, Bernie Sanders, on his ballot, drawing scorn from his wife Darcy (51). The couple are Republicans, but do not like either candidates.

“So you’re throwing away your vote,” said his wife.

“Donald is not going to win,” he replied.

“I don’t know,” she said.

Jonathan’s protest vote is limited to the top of the ticket; down ballot he intends to vote for Pat Toomey, the state’s incumbent Republican junior US senator, a must-win for the party to retain control of the Senate.

“People will take out their anger and vote for Pat Toomey instead of Katie McGinty so that there’s a balance in having the Senate controlled by the Republicans,” he said, anticipating a Clinton victory.

Later on Saturday, in Philadelphia, Clinton and her running mate, Virginia senator Tim Kaine, returned for the first time since they won their party’s nominations at the convention here in July.

Clinton, speaking to more than 7,000 people on a chilly night on the University of Pennsylvania’s campus, was confident enough to push not just her own bid but McGinty too. The Real Clear Politics average of polls has Clinton a comfortable six points ahead in Pennsylvania.

“She [McGinty] is running against someone who refuses to stand up to Donald Trump, ” said Clinton, bashing Toomey.

Checkmate state

“If we win Pennsylvania, it’s gonna be over folks,” he said. “Pennsylvania is the checkmate state.”

Appearing to look beyond the election, Clinton appealed to those not backing her. “I believe we can disagree without being disagreeable,” she said, recognising the frustrations of Trump’s supporters “who feel like they are being left out of our economy, that our politics and our government doesn’t work”.

“We can’t just be angry,” she said. “Anger is not a plan.”

She wrapped up her speech, making a plea to her supporters to win over family, friends and colleagues. “You know, it’s not too late to stage an intervention,” she said, drawing a ripple of laughter from the crowd. “Friends don’t let friends vote for Trump.”

Sue Jordan (53), from Delaware County, one of Philadelphia’s collar counties, will not be answering Clinton’s call after getting in an argument with a work colleague supporting Trump. Out in the Philly suburbs, she says she feels she’s in a minority as a Clinton supporter.

“I try to stay away from talk with my friends,” she said. “It’s odd. The people you wouldn’t think would be Donald Trump supporters are.”