Can Rural PA Swing The Keystone State For Trump?

A new Monmouth University poll of Pennsylvania has Joe Biden up by twelve points over President Donald Trump, but  New York Post and Washington Examiner columnist Salena Zito tells me that the Keystone State is still up for grabs. Zito sat down with me for a few minutes on Tuesday to talk about how the elections are shaping up across the state, including in southwestern Pennsylvania, where a number of local officials have recently left the Democratic Party and have joined the GOP.

As Zito explains in her latest column, a number of counties in that part of the state have actually seen huge growth in the number of registered Republicans over the past ten years.

In 2008, there were nearly double the number of registered Democrats over Republicans in Westmoreland County and James Albert was one of them. He had already been elected district judge as a Democrat for over a dozen years, and he would vote for Barack Obama that cycle and again in 2012.

Albert first served his community as a local police officer, and then as a county detective and a deputy sheriff before running for district judge. He came out of retirement this past year and won the race for sheriff as a Democrat.

Now there are more registered Republicans in Westmoreland County, and Albert is one of them. It is a decision he says he took seriously as he watched his party of birth leave less room for his pro-life and pro-Second Amendment values with each passing year.

When the party started walking away from supporting law enforcement, Albert had had enough. “What really convinced me,” he says, “was the past few months as the country has witnessed these riots where we saw the looting of businesses or arson attacks or the destruction of property, as well as assaults on innocent citizens and attacks on law enforcement … Then, David Dorn was killed.” Dorn, a retired police officer, was fatally shot during looting in St. Louis in June.
Albert’s not alone. Fayette County Sheriff Mike Custer also recently switched his party affiliation, though he admitted to Zito that the last time he voted Democrat in a presidential election was when Bill Clinton was running. Still, Zito says the erosion of support for the Democratic Party in Pennsylvania’s pro-gun coal country is real, and it could be the difference between victory and defeat for the Trump campaign.
The calculation Biden seems to be making is the same one Hillary Clinton made in 2016: Run up the numbers in Philadelphia and suburban collar counties, plus Allegheny County, and hope the rural vote remains unenthused. Those areas are more populated, but you never really know how many Alberts and Custers out there are going to show up — or how many pro-meteor people are going to stay home.
To be sure, Zito isn’t predicting that Trump will be able to pull it off, but if he does win the state of Pennsylvania (something that Zito believes we won’t likely know until close to Thanksgiving), he’ll have gun owners in small towns and rural parts of the state to thank.
Be sure to check out the entire conversation with Salena in the video window above, and visit SalenaZito.com to get her latest columns and newsletters from the “middle of somewhere.”