One rally filled a high school gym with thousands, with thousands more waiting — unsuccessfully — to get in.
Another rally a few days earlier — a mere handful of miles away — was reported this way:
HARRISBURG, Pa. — Pushing an agenda that touts creating millions of new jobs for Americans, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and vice-presidential hopeful Sen. Tim Kaine made a campaign stop Friday at Broad Street Market in front of hundreds of supporters.
That’s right, it was Hillary who drew “hundreds” in downtown Harrisburg, Pennsylvania — this in a state capital where Democrat Tom Wolf sits as governor and has a Democratic machine filled with political employees. And it was Trump, appearing across the Susquehanna River at Cumberland Valley High School in the Harrisburg suburb of Mechanicsburg, whose rally was reported thusly by PoliticsPA:
Donald Trump is definitely targeting Pennsylvania.
Even if you didn’t catch the recent articles about how, along with Florida and Ohio, PA is one of the GOP nominee’s must-win states, you would know it from Trump’s frequent visits to the commonwealth.
Another such event occurred last night in Mechanicsburg, a suburb of Harrisburg.
Candy Woodall of the Patriot-News put the attendance at about 3,500 while the candidate asserted that an additional 5,000 had to be turned away. Carley Mossbrook and Steve Esack of the Morning Call reported 3,156 in the gymnasium and another 1,371 in the school’s auditorium.
And yes, I was at the Trump rally in Mechanicsburg, which, in the style of the day, has now been posted here on YouTube. Without question the gym was filled to capacity, and as I walked by them it was abundantly clear there were in fact several thousands outside waiting patiently to get inside to hear The Donald. Good luck with that.
What did he say inside? Plenty — and not a word about the dust-up with Khzir Khan. And while we’re on the subject? I spoke with a lot of the rally-goers — and not one, say again not one — brought up Mr. Khan. Instead I heard about health care, the economy, Hillary, and more. But not a word on the Khans — while the media at large was reporting the Khans and nothing but the Khans. Can you say “reality check”?
At one point Trump launched into the media, saying, “the biggest problem is the media” — with the crowd instantly booing the press, breaking into a sustained — very sustained — mix of deafening boos mixed with chants of “USA! USA!” As reported here at Real Clear Politics, Trump added:
“These are among the most dishonest people you will ever, ever meet. These people — you know, I’ve had days where I have said, ‘Boy, this was a great day. I’ll look forward to seeing it tonight or tomorrow and it’s brutal.’ And I say, ‘What happened?’
We are going to punch through the media. We have to! The New York Times is totally dishonest. Totally dishonest. The Washington Post has been a little bit better lately but not good. By the way The New York Times, which is failing badly. I call it ‘The Failing New York Times.’ Every story that they write is a hit job. I could do the greatest thing in the history of the world. I could come up with a cure for the most horrible disease in the world and they give me a front-page horrible, horrible story. The New York Times is very dishonest but it will be out of business soon. I hope. It will be out of business. It will. Really dishonest reporters. Not all of them, but most of them.
And CNN. CNN is like all Trump all the time. All Trump all the time. You walk out of an interview and you say, ‘that was a good interview’ and then you get killed for the rest of the weekend. So they are so biased toward Crooked Hillary. You know they call it: CNN, Clinton News Network. CNN. Clinton News Network. Totally dishonest. But hopefully a lot of people aren’t watching it.”
What is not reported in this particular account is the roar that went up from the crowd when Trump launched into his media attack. It was thunderous — signs waving, people yelling, many turning around to yell in the direction of the all the cameras and press that were lining the risers in the back of the gym. It was quite the sight, and a reminder of the very real divide between the New York/Washington axis of journalism and average Americans who believe in their bones that the media has it out for Trump — and by extension for them as well.
In an hour-long speech there was no teleprompter, a reminder of just how good Trump is at speaking off the cuff. Sitting behind him and to his right in a front row seat I had a perfect eye-view of the podium. The only time he referred to a piece of paper was when he began discussing the jobs lost in Pennsylvania and connecting this to trade deals. It is no accident that his discussion of trade deals drew a response from the audience. Pennsylvania has a long history as a manufacturing state. As Trump discussed the issue, someone in the crowd yelled out “Hershey!” — and Trump knew exactly what they were talking about. For those coming in late on this issue, here’s a report from USA Today in 2007:
Candy maker Hershey to cut jobs, send some manufacturing to Mexico
HERSHEY, Pa. (AP) — Hershey (HSY) is cutting 1,500 jobs over three years as part of a plan to scale back production and move some manufacturing to Mexico, the candy maker announced Thursday.
… The company said it will outsource production of low value-added items and also plans to build a plant in Monterrey, Mexico to meet growing demand in that country.
As with the move to Mexico by Indiana’s Carrier Air Conditioning — which Trump repeatedly cites when discussing trade issues — trade is an issue that hits home with Pennsylvanians, as it clearly did when Trump raised the issue in Mechanicsburg. “Your companies are all gone, your companies are all gone,” he remarked as the crowd applauded his point. “We love you Donald!” yelled a male voice out the crowd. “And I love you too!” Trump broke off to respond with a grin as the crowd cheered.
In addition to trade Trump ran the litany of issues — repealing Obamacare was mentioned. And, but of course, “build the wall” — the chant from the crowd overwhelming and now virtually a set piece of Trump rallies with the candidate grinning broadly as the audience takes the cue when he mentions the issue.
What other applause lines were there for Trump? Wages, Bernie Sanders caving to Hillary at the Democratic Convention. (“He made a deal with the devil. She’s the devil.”) Tim Kaine drew boos when Trump threw the spotlight on a Kaine tax increase as Governor of Virginia. A reference to NATO countries needing to pay their share of NATO expenses was cheered.
But what was particularly notable was the enthusiasm — and the contrast to the Hillary Clinton rally only days before was stark. In Pennsylvania this has a particularly potent meaning. Any Republican running for president (or any statewide office) has two challenges: make as many inroads as possible into Democratic Philadelphia to keep the vote total low, while at the same time running up the score in more Republican or conservative areas of the state. The problem is in reverse for Democrats. But the key in both cases is the obvious (aside from organization). That would be — enthusiasm for the candidate.
This explains why former Democratic Governor Ed Rendell told Philadelphia radio host Rich Zeoli of Talk Radio 1210 WPHT this:
“This state is in play. Anybody who thinks that it isn’t is crazy. I remember I was literally screaming on the phone with the Obama campaign to bring the President back in. We finally got him in for one last day in Pittsburgh. He didn’t come back in in Philadelphia and we went from winning this city by about 12 points in 2008 to winning the… region by about five points. They’ve got to take Pennsylvania seriously this time. It’s very hard for Democrats to win without Pennsylvania. If you lose Pennsylvania, it puts a priority on winning either Ohio or Florida.”
Dr. Terry Madonna, who runs the prestigious Franklin and Marshall poll (and yes, I am an F&M alum but the poll really is prestigious!), says of the question of whether Trump can be the first GOP nominee to win the state since 1988: “The answer is a surprisingly emphatic ‘yes.’”
Based on the two dueling rallies that took place mere miles apart from each other right here in the Harrisburg area over the last couple of nights? With a few hundred Pennsylvanians turning out for Hillary and literally thousands for Trump?
Call it the enthusiasm gap. Call it the passion gap. Call it whatever you want. But rest assured, the Donald Trump on display in Mechanicsburg the other night has a very, very real chance to carry Pennsylvania and be the next President of the United States.
And Hillary’s allies know it.