July 14, 2017

Erie’s top two Democrats explain how Trump turned this Obama county red

Erie residents’ desire for good jobs is how Erie County Executive Kathy Dahlkemper accounts for Donald Trump’s victory in the county four years after Barack Obama won big there in 2012.

Four years after Mitt Romney lost Erie County by 19,000 votes, Trump won it by 2,000, becoming the first Republican presidential candidate to win there since 1984. That 21,000-vote swing (a 19 percentage-point reversal) helped Trump become the first Republican to win Pennsylvania since 1988.

Erie residents placed a bet on Trump, Dahlkemper said. Whether that bet will ultimately pay off is debatable. “The truth of the matter is I think people will be disappointed when they don’t see some of those economic changes happen like they had hoped.”

Erie City Mayor Joseph Sinnott said Trump won in part because Clinton didn’t show up to campaign. “[The city of] Erie was a big Clinton area. It always was. They were very, very supportive of Bill Clinton, very, very supportive of [Hillary] Clinton in 2008,” he said. But “this time, Hillary did not come here….and it was noticed.”

Clinton dominated in Erie City, whose population of 100,000 is about one-third the county’s total, winning each of the city’s 69 voting districts. But Trump won overwhelmingly almost everywhere else in the county.

“Obviously in 2008, [hope] was the big moniker for the Democratic Party,” Sinnott said. “But I think that’s what resonates with people in every election. Where does their hope lie now? When their lives weren’t what they expected them to be, significantly better, then their hope changes to a different message and they’re trying that now. Four years from now we’ll see where people’s hope lies then.”

Sinnott continued regarding Trump’s promises to revitalize manufacturing: “I think he instilled in people a hope that people in cities were going to matter again, and they were going to be part of the policies going forward, especially the economic policies. That’s what people are betting on.”

This video was originally featured as a part of the Washington Examiner’s series The Race to 2020: The people and places that will define a presidency. You can read more about Erie County, see more videos, or use the form below to get email updates about future updates.

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