Dissatisfied with government, working-class flips Pennsylvania from blue to red
The Democrats were confident about winning Pennsylvania, but it wasn’t even close in the western part of the state. At the end of the night, Donald Trump breached a region that Democrat Hillary Clinton was banking on in her bid for the presidency.
Key battleground states like Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin had voted for the Democratic candidate in every presidential election for a generation. Ohio, Minnesota and Iowa have been part of winning Democratic maps, as well.
But Trump outperformed expectations in all of them, moving most into the Republican column even after President Barack Obama twice swept the region.
Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Washington and Westmoreland counties easily went to Donald Trump. Allegheny County was in the minority, where 56 percent of the vote went to Clinton.
Tuesday night, long lines of people – some waiting up to two hours – cast their votes in Pennsylvania. Rural areas carried Trump, and two local counties had higher turnout than they normally see for a presidential election.
In Westmoreland County, turnout was 75 percent -- with 184,000 votes going to Trump. In Washington County, turnout was 70 percent, with nearly 59,000 votes going to Trump.
“I get a kick out of some of these pollsters, which I never put much credence in, all saying that Pennsylvania was decided. Like hell it was decided,” said Larry Spahr, of the Washington County Board of Elections.
Another interesting note in Washington County was that the number of people who voted straight Republican greatly outnumbered straight Democratic. That’s something election officials have never seen in the county, where Democrats used to outnumber Republicans 4 to 1.
"The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer," Trump said in his acceptance speech, alluding to his economic populist message that helped him shift much of the old industrial territory.
Trump's supporters said they were deeply dissatisfied with the federal government and eager for change, according to the exit polls conducted by Edison Research for national media outlets.
"It's just shocking that it took a billionaire to connect with the working-class folks that controlled this election," said Byron Dopkins, a 59-year-old accountant and Trump voter in River Falls, Wisconsin. "It wasn't the elite, it wasn't the white collar ... it was the working-class people."
Trump's surge in working-class regions was evident in places such as Mahoning County, Ohio. Obama won Mahoning, where organized labor still acts as a political force, by a 28-point margin in 2012. On Tuesday, Clinton won it by just 3 percentage points and fell short of Obama's vote total by more than 20,000.
Obama won nearby Belmont County, in the coal country along the Ohio River, in his first election. It shifted to Romney in 2012, and on Tuesday Trump won almost 70 percent of the vote.
Across Ohio, nearly half of all voters said international trade hurts the country's jobs situation, and two-thirds of them backed Trump. Two-thirds of the state's voters said the job situation in Ohio had deteriorated or remained static over the past four years, and three-quarters of them voted for Trump.
It was a pattern that repeated across the region.
Clinton did refashion an alliance similar to Obama's — women, young voters and nonwhites — but it wasn't large enough.
In Michigan, she lost Flor Penner, a 60-year-old massage therapist who voted for Trump after having twice voted for Obama. Penner lives in the Detroit suburbs of Macomb County, which twice sided with Obama only to see Trump win by almost 12 points.
Penner said Trump will bring needed change to Washington, compared to "something wrong and corrupt" about Clinton. A Filipino immigrant-turned-American citizen, Penner dismissed Trump's harsh rhetoric on immigration as "just campaigning."
Clinton's support was concentrated in large cities, the Northeast and along the West Coast. But even in some key urban areas, Clinton fell short of Obama's benchmark.
The urban drop-off was a critical blow to Clinton, as Trump ran up resounding margins in small towns and rural areas, while adding victories in many suburbs.
Senior fellow at The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research Marjorie Connelly in Washington and Associated Press writers Amy Forliti in River Falls, Wisconsin, Mike Householder in Waverly, Ohio, and Jeff Karoub in St. Clair Shores, Michigan, contributed to this report.