Race For Pennsylvania Likely To Hinge On Philadelphia Surburbs

Jul 11, 2016
Originally published on July 11, 2016 6:38 pm
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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

The presidential race in Pennsylvania will likely come down to the suburbs around Philadelphia. Hillary Clinton is favored in the city by big margins and the rural middle of the state is expected to back Donald Trump. And that means the state's 20 electoral votes may hinge on places like Bucks County.

Well, this week NPR and some member stations are taking a look at the election's battleground communities as part of our project a Nation Engaged. NPR's Scott Detrow spent some time talking to Republicans in Bucks County, and he has this report.

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: A lot of highly educated, higher-income Republican voters live in Bucks and the surrounding so-called collar counties. Democrats think they can flip many of them, especially women, over to vote for Hillary Clinton.

Jessica Schoder is 28. She works in Bucks County and volunteers for many local and state-level Republican campaigns. She's sitting in a coffee shop in Doylestown right in the middle of Bucks County between Philadelphia and Allentown. And she says both her parents are active Democrats.

JESSICA SCHODER: You know, every now and then my mom - especially when I work on certain campaigns - she's like I can't believe you're a Republican, you know - that kind of thing. I'm kind of like the Alex Keaton of my family.

DETROW: Schoder says she probably leaned left in college, but as she entered the workforce her viewpoints changed.

SCHODER: I think I'm mostly can - you know, Republican just because like economically to me that's, you know, the big issues, you know, money and, you know, what our country's doing with the money, what personally I'm doing with my money, what's being taken of my money - that sort of thing.

DETROW: And Schoder's concerned about national security. She likes what presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump is saying about it.

SCHODER: He actually says, you know, he's going to do something. We need to do something. And right now I don't think anybody is really doing anything about it, and I think he has, you know, like the right at least mindset of that.

DETROW: Sitting in a nearby park, 19-year-old college student Matt Schargel says national security is a top-tier issue for him, too.

MATT SCHARGEL: The American people don't feel certain. We wake up on a Saturday morning and see that there is another terrorist attack or mass shooting.

DETROW: Crossing Main Street Schargel takes in the town.

SCHARGEL: Yeah. I'd say Doylestown is kind of one of your all-American towns. If you looked down the block, you'd see a movie theater, restaurants, lots of shops.

DETROW: The county used to be firmly Republican. But Barack Obama won it by a sliver in 2012. And in the recent GOP primary, Trump carried nearly 6 in 10 Republican voters. Like Jessica Schoder Schargel is a hyper-involved Republican. He says he really got hooked on politics in 2004 when his dad brought him to a George W. Bush rally.

SCHARGEL: And I'll always remember sitting on my dad's shoulders watching President Bush speak and just being taken aback by the whole thing.

DETROW: Schargel can't imagine himself ever voting for Hillary Clinton. And yet...

SCHARGEL: At this point, I would say I am 70 percent certain I'm not supporting Donald Trump.

DETROW: Trump's demeanor, his track record has Schargel turned off.

SCHARGEL: I think it's pretty sad. Since high school I've been devoted Republican but I believe our nominee doesn't share the ideals of this party, and I think he lacks the character discipline to hold the highest office in the land.

DETROW: Jessica Schoder disagrees.

SCHODER: I think so. I mean, I definitely think he's a little more intense, definitely than I am, you know, and he's a bit intense on some issues. But, I mean, his core values - it seems, you know, he does, you know, a very, you know - he's fiscally conservative, you know, doesn't agree with abortion - that kind of thing, you know, things that I agree with - so yeah.

DETROW: So will Schoder vote for Trump?

SCHODER: Well, you know, I mean, I don't know how to describe it. You know, he's not my favorite, but, you know, I'm most likely 90 percent going to vote for him.

DETROW: Democrats will likely spend a lot of time and money on that 10 percent likelihood that she may do something else. Scott Detrow, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.