Pennsylvania doesn’t need a presidential recount. It needs jobs where they’ve been lost.

Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate who siphoned votes from Democrat Hillary Clinton but not enough in Pennsylvania to make a difference, raised more than $5 million last week to contest the elections in three Great Lakes states where the Democrat suffered the narrowest losses: Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

That money would be better spent investing in pretty much anything that puts people into jobs that last longer than a vote count. Michigan and Wisconsin are extraordinarily close, but Donald Trump has a 70,000-vote cushion in Pennsylvania. Ms. Clinton can’t become president without flipping all three states so this Hail Hillary pass is doomed.

Those contesting the election say this is less about expecting an overturned result than in finding out whether the voting machines can be trusted. But if anyone’s still wondering how Mr. Trump won, here’s the answer in six words: He won where the jobs aren’t.

Carnegie Mellon University’s Center for Economic Development tracked employment numbers by Pennsylvania county, and there’s a strong tie to the vote results.

Eight counties saw a decline in employment of 10 percent or more between 2007 and 2015. None is a big county but all went big for Mr. Trump. Here they are in descending order of jobs decline:

Forest County saw a drop in employed persons of 22 percent and gave Mr. Trump 70 percent of its vote; Wayne, 15 percent decline, 68 percent for Mr. Trump; McKean, 13 percent, 72 percent; Huntingdon, 13, 77; Somerset, 13, 74; Fayette, 12, 64; Cameron 12, 73; Pike 10, 62.

The largest of these, Fayette, is only the state’s 26th largest county and has fewer than 136,000 people. But when a candidate is pulling in 62 to 77 percent of the vote up and down the commonwealth, it adds up.

In contrast, Mrs. Clinton took counties more in tune with the current economy. She took only 11 but they included the state’s five largest and 11 of the top 22. Trouble for her was that outside of Philadelphia she didn’t take nearly the percentages Mr. Trump did snaring his counties.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania’s largest county, led the jobs derby in the CMU survey. Employed persons increased more than 11 percent in the eight years ending in 2015. Philadelphians gave 82 percent of their votes to Ms. Clinton.

Centre County was next best with 5.3 percent additional people with jobs, and it gave Ms. Clinton a plurality with nearly 49 percent of the vote.

Allegheny, Lehigh, Montgomery, Chester, Delaware and Lackawanna also gave Mrs. Clinton more than 50 percent of the vote, and it’s no surprise that all but the last county on that list had increases in employed people. Lackawanna had a slight 1.4 percent downturn in the employed, and gave Ms. Clinton the narrowest margin in this group, with 50.2 percent.

In the three counties she won with a mere plurality of 49.4 percent or less, the economy was mediocre. She managed to narrowly win Bucks, Dauphin and Monroe counties despite employment downturns of 2.6 to 3.75 percent in those areas. Every Pennsylvania county that did worse went for Mr. Trump.

Social issues and glass ceilings may have been foremost in the minds of Ms. Clinton’s supporters (and we should not forget that she had a couple of million more of America’s votes than the winner) but the nation’s uneven economy was the difference in America’s and Pennsylvania’s election.

A lot of people are quoting belatedly the old dictum of James Carville, campaign strategist for Bill Clinton’s successful 1992 presidential campaign: “It’s the economy, stupid.” Ms. Clinton kept offering reasons not to vote for Mr. Trump instead of how she might bring jobs to where they’ve dwindled.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright, whose sprawling district takes in Scranton in Lackawanna County, won re-election and told Reuters that about 40,000 Trump voters crossed over to back him for a third term. That’s because “when I talk to voters, jobs is always my No. 1 message,” Mr. Cartwright said.

As dubious as Mr. Trump’s promises to bring back and coal and steel jobs are, his campaign strategy worked. In a sense, we’re all students at Trump University now, waiting to see how many of his promises are kept.

Brian O’Neill


(c)2016 the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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