Rendell: Pennsylvania in play for Trump

07.27.16 | Bob Price

Former Gov. Ed Rendell on Tuesday declared Pennsylvania "in play" for president, two days before his friend Hillary Clinton is slated to accept the Democratic nomination in Philadelphia.

The reason? Republican nominee Donald Trump's rhetoric is resonating with "white, blue-collar workers," Rendell said at breakfast sponsored by Politico.

"People have to understand, not withstanding presidential elections, Pennsylvania is not a blue state," Rendell said. "We have a Republican legislature."

Rendell noted that Pennsylvania has more than 900,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans, but his party's voters "don't turn out nearly as well" unless the presidency is on the ballot.

Pennsylvania has voted Democrat for president in every election since 1992, when Clinton's husband, Bill, won his first term as president.

But Rendell sees a different electorate shaping up this year.

"I've warned Democrats: Donald Trump is giving a message and it's resonating with white, blue-collar workers who work in factories, who work on construction crews," Rendell said. "We'd be naive if we didn't understand that that exists. This state is in play."

Rendell was clearly frustrated that Trump's attacks on free trade deals are scoring so well with those voters. He noted that Trump has said his brand of men's ties is manufactured overseas because of low labor costs there.

"He doesn't make anything in the U.S.," Rendell said. "It makes no sense at all. But it doesn't seem to matter. The toughest task is to get those voters to listen."

Rendell was joined in the discussion by Kevin Washo, executive director of the host committee staging the Democratic National Convention this week and a former executive director of the state Democratic Party.

They both noted the ability of eastern Pennsylvania counties to tilt the balance of an statewide election.

Asked what a Trump victory map in Pennsylvania looks like, Rendell looked to Philadelphia's suburbs and the Lehigh Valley.

"I think you'll know right away if Donald Trump is winning, looking at the three Lehigh Valley counties and the four Philadelphia suburban counties. If he's not carrying any of those counties, he's dead meat."