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Prospects were dim in Penn., and voters there say Trump listened

Patrick McCarthy works three jobs in Milford, Pa., a town that voted overwhelmingly for Donald Trump. Rich Schultz for The Boston Globe/Globe Freelance

MILFORD, Pa. — A day after the election that few saw coming, the road into town off Interstate 84 is still lined with blue Trump/Pence signs stuck into the ground every hundred yards or so, tacked to telephone poles, leaned against guardrails. A kid straddled a bike, going nowhere, wasting away a cloudy afternoon, in a Make America Great Again cap.

This is Pike County, in the northeastern corner of Pennsylvania, a state most had expected would deliver for Hillary Clinton, part of her vaunted Blue Wall that was supposed to reach 270 electoral votes, a wall that crumbled Tuesday under an unforeseen wave of Donald Trump voters.

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Manny Perez, who worked in the financial industry and now is a consultant, lives in Dingmans Ferry, part of Pike County. He speaks with a very deep, clear voice between puffs of a cigarette in an interview on Broad Street, Milford’s quaint downtown drag. There are lawyers and realtors in business in Milford, antique shops, cafes, and a few bars. Even some of the locals wonder where people who live in the city manage to work.

The genius of the Trump campaign was not always what Trump said, Perez suggested, but how.

“Trump didn’t offer superior details, but the spirit of the message was there: That we’re not going to be forgotten. In the Trump White House the American worker, the American innovator will not be forgotten,” Perez said.

Tuesday’s presidential election revealed anew a polarized country divided between the deep blue Democratic cities of the Northeast and West, where the president-elect was reviled, and the rural and suburban communities across the country that aligned in an almost uninterrupted swath of Republican red by the time the last votes were counted.

This Pennsylvania county is Trump country, where voters awoke Tuesday — finally — to a leader and a nation speaking on their wavelength.

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Mitt Romney narrowly won Pike County in 2012, netting 2,500 votes on his way to losing the state to Barack Obama. On Tuesday, Trump demolished Clinton in Pike by nearly 2-1: 16,035 votes to 9,247, according to unofficial results.

He won the state, and the presidency, by banking huge margins in places a lot like Pike County: largely white, rural, or bedroom towns where people come for housing they can afford, though they probably have to work someplace else.

Fifty-nine-year-old Patrick McCarthy, of Milford, raised three kids, but he and his wife see their own financial prospects dimming with time. He is working three jobs. He staffs the heating and air conditioning store in downtown Milford, he does maintenance at the church, and he works with his wife’s cleaning company. At work at the heating store downtown, he wore a collared shirt and sweater vest.

“Still doesn’t seem like there’s any money at the end of the month,” he said. “We’re not crazy spenders. We don’t go out; we don’t entertain.”

“I think he touched something inside of a lot of people,” said John Longendorfer, an artist in Milford, Pa., about Donald Trump. Rich Schultz for The Boston Globe

Trump, to him, represented a throwback to a time when a guy willing to work could experience a level of comfort — nice home, reasonable salary.

Romney, he said “spoke well, but looked weak.”

But Trump? He “spoke a little harder; he seemed to have a little more behind it. . . . The way he was talking is the way people used to talk 50 years ago and nobody got offended. They could take it.”

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Karena Larsen, 60, a retired legal administrator, pondered the election results and the state of the nation at the Village Diner, outside of downtown. The Trump appeal, so intoxicating to her neighbors, is lost on her. It seems her region is voting against its own interest. She supported Clinton.

“I would have voted for Jill Stein, but Trump really frightened me,” she said, referring to the Green Party presidential nominee.

At the next booth, another Clinton voter, Ruth Rendleman, a 68-year-old music teacher, was so upset by the results she had to take the day off work. She’s from just across the Delaware River in Montague, N.J. “I’m devastated,” she said. “I so wanted to live to see a woman in office. I guess I’m going to have to live a little longer than I planned.”

But Clinton voters are in the minority around here.

At the Golden Fish Gallery and Museum, John Longendorfer’s eyes widened at the suggestion: Had Donald Trump touched something inside him?

“Yes! Yes! Yeah!”

“I think he touched something inside of a lot of people, maybe even something that they didn’t know what it was.”

Longendorfer is 86. He wears blue jeans and suspenders, and a big silver ring with a cross on it. His untrimmed white eyebrows reach off his forehead. He’s a shopkeeper and an artist, selling zodiac jewelry and swords under the same roof. Before 2008, he said, he made money at his shop. Now? Not so much. “I’m open because I’d rather die here than on the couch,” he said.

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He says, with some pride, that he comes from a different time. “I consider myself an old-time American,” he said. Trump is a bridge to that time. “I don’t like authority. I obey laws but I don’t like people breathing down my neck — you can’t do this, you can’t do that. I was seeing more and more of that.”

Trump, he said, raised his feelings of “old-time patriotism,” the JFK-style “ask not” kind of patriotism. “That’s gone now. Everybody has their hand out. If you fixed the economy, you wouldn’t need all these entitlements.”


Mark Arsenault can be reached Mark.Arsenault@globe.com. Follow him @BostonGlobeMark