The View From Pennsylvania: A Swing District In A Swing State
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
And we're going to turn now to my colleague Steve Inskeep, who is looking at the view of an election - an important vote in this country, which is coming in November. Steve, take it away.
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
That's right. It's the view from the Northeast this morning. Where you live can influence how you vote. We've seen that in the Midwest, in Appalachia and in Big Sky Country. And today, we are with a live audience in Providence, R.I. We're at the Fleet Library at the Rhode Island School of Design, a cavernous, beautiful room here. And folks, will you just take this opportunity to make noise in the library, which you normally would not get to do?
INSKEEP: We heard some conga drums there. We're going to hear more of those through the morning as well. Now, we reached here after traveling part of the Northeast. We started in Levittown, Pa., an iconic early American suburb. Kids play on the streets, when we were there, anyway. We saw 1950s houses that started out decades ago looking the same. But people have added on to them. And Colleen Bateman (ph) lives in one of those renovated houses.
How's the economy around here right now?
COLLEEN BATEMAN: You can tell by the houses. A lot of these people do contracting and work on houses and such. They are electricians, plumbers, people like that. And those that are doing well, you can see it with their homes. They're adding on second floors, and their houses look very good. Other people seem to be having a problem finding jobs. And you can see in those homes, they look sort of rundown and not well kempt.
INSKEEP: Now, Bateman worries about inequality. She supported Bernie Sanders during the Democratic primaries. She now says she's comfortable backing Hillary Clinton, although she is concerned about Clinton's foreign policy.
BATEMAN: My opinion is that in order for women to gain access to political hierarchy, they have to somewhat be militaristic.
INSKEEP: You think that she has to prove that she's tough?
BATEMAN: Yeah. She has to prove that she's tough. If she shows too much of her soft side, she'll never get elected, although I think women will elect her.
INSKEEP: Were you tempted, even for a second, by Trump's message?
BATEMAN: Not at all (laughter). I couldn't believe it. I mean, I used to watch "The Apprentice" (laughter). I liked Donald Trump. But now, I mean, I see him, and I just feel complete revulsion.
INSKEEP: Have you had conversations with anybody around here who is a Trump supporter?
BATEMAN: Oh, the man that has helped me build this house. He said that he supported Trump. And my heart just sank when I heard that because I like him so much (laughter).
INSKEEP: This is a swing county in a swing state. It has gone for Democrats in presidential races. But it's elected Republicans to Senate and congressional seats. And Donald Trump wants to compete.
NPR's political editor - a political editor for NPR, Domenico Montanaro, is here in Providence, R.I., with us. Domenico, good morning.
DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.
INSKEEP: Any real chance for Trump in Pennsylvania?
MONTANARO: Well, look - where you were in Pennsylvania, in Bucks County, is exactly the kind of place that Donald Trump has to win. It's a place that Democrats have won. Since 1988, Democrats have won Pennsylvania, and they won Bucks County narrowly. Just - Obama in 2012, for example, won it by less than 4,000 votes out of 300,000.
INSKEEP: Swing county.
MONTANARO: Swing county, blue-collar whites - it's a real Democratic problem. It's trended more Republican. Of course, Democrats are hoping maybe a place like Florida will make up a difference. But Pennsylvania is certainly a place to watch, especially a place like Bucks County, which can really indicate, as a bellwether, whether or not Republicans could take the state.
INSKEEP: Well, let's listen to a Donald Trump supporter in that county, Bucks County, Pa. He's a Pennsylvania delegate to the Republican convention. His name is Jim Worthington. He owns the Newtown Athletic Club, which is where we met him. Now, just give a listen here, folks, if you would, because we walked with him through the gym, past dozens of exercise machines, past the outdoor pool, while talking about Donald Trump.
JIM WORTHINGTON: How big could he screw up? I mean, what could he do that would be any worse than what's happened with other presidents that weren't effective? I mean, I really don't think he's going to push the button. So short of that, what could happen? My contention is - the way things have gone so far haven't worked. Give a chance to somebody who's an outsider.
INSKEEP: By the way, this gym is amazing.
WORTHINGTON: It's called a lifestyle center. We coined the phrase, like, four years ago.
INSKEEP: It includes big TV screens, on which he suddenly saw a headline about Donald Trump.
WORTHINGTON: Doesn't need the GOP - oh, man.
INSKEEP: (Reading) Trump says doesn't need GOP.
It says on MSNBC.
WORTHINGTON: Well, what are you going to say when they're all coming out and saying, you know, vote your conscience?
INSKEEP: Do you think he doesn't need the GOP?
WORTHINGTON: No, I mean, he does. I think the other thing - and we'll talk about this tonight - is a lot of people are not happy with - you know, if you're a Trump voter that you're either racist or a bigot or stupid or, you know, any number of things. You know, and I think they take it personally, which I - you know what? - they probably should. Oh, look, we've got a pretty big crowd.
INSKEEP: A pretty good crowd. We'd arrived at a meeting that Worthington organized of Trump supporters there at the athletic club. Worthington told them he'd called this meeting to build a local Trump organization.
WORTHINGTON: Is the GOP going to get behind Trump? The way I look at it is I'm assuming they're doing nothing and that we're doing everything. And anything we get out of them is a plus.
INSKEEP: A Trump campaign staff member was on hand for this. Now, Worthington brought together a lot of passionate people. And he let some of them speak, including Terry Ruben (ph), who said she had recently met a veteran.
TERRY RUBEN: When you serve two tours in Afghanistan, you meet those people. The people that are in Afghanistan, wearing those same kind of burqas and those same type of dresses are the same people that are being sent over here, the same kind of people that we're going to be filled with.
INSKEEP: We should emphasize, this meeting was taking place amid prosperity, overlooking the pool of this giant club in a lovely suburb. But there was intense concern among the people on the picnic tables about the direction of the country. We're going to hear some of those concerns in this program. Now, Domenico Montanaro of NPR News, we invited some prominent Pennsylvania Republicans to talk on this program. They all declined. You never really know why. But is this an awkward moment for Pennsylvania Republican officials?
MONTANARO: Well, it's an awkward moment for Republican officials and leaders generally nationally. I mean, there are lots of vocal supporters who support Trump, as you heard in the clip. But a lot of Republican leaders who we've talked to - when you try to ask them about some of these controversial statements, several of them have winced and said that they are done talking about Donald Trump.
INSKEEP: OK. We're hearing the view from the Northeast throughout this morning. And now here in the Fleet Library in Providence, we're going to hear New York City percussionist Pedrito Martinez. Take it away, sir.
PEDRITO MARTINEZ: (Playing drums).
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