Salena Zito

The president’s main problem in Pennsylvania is downscale whites, said Trende: “The white working class has never been crazy about this president, and really only came on board with the collapse of the stock market in September of 2008.”

It has nothing to do with race. “He called them ‘bitter,’ ” Trende said – and they have never forgotten that.

If Obama writes off Pennsylvania, he’s basically conceding he can’t win the Pittsburgh area outside Allegheny County and is running poorly in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area.

“In the long run, the Philly suburbs can conceivably provide enough votes to overcome this,” Trende said, although he hasn’t seen evidence of that yet.

Without a collapsing economy to remind these voters why they’re still Democrats, they will vote Republican. Indeed, a just-stagnant economy on a Democrat’s watch doesn’t help.

Six weeks ago, Obama visited Pittsburgh. The union crowd was thin. Enthusiasm was nonexistent; so were local elected Democrats, who opted to shake his hand at the airport rather than stand on stage with him while he talked about jobs.

Last week he went to Scranton, home to Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Sen. Bob Casey. A no-show in Pittsburgh, Casey again declined to appear with the president.

Like Pittsburgh’s congressional Democrats, the freshman senator faces a tough re-election campaign next year.

In off-year elections last month, Republicans increased their control of Pennsylvania counties by 12, giving 52 of 67 counties to the GOP. Most of those gains were in Northeastern or Western Pennsylvania, home to Scranton and Pittsburgh, respectively.

Heading north along State Route 51 into Allegheny County, a faded Hillary-for-president sign straddles a closed business and a yard. Duct-tape appears to be still holding it in place.


Salena Zito

Salena Zito is a political analyst, reporter and columnist.