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Make Pennsylvania red again?

Leaving Cleveland, Pennsylvania delegates, pols and Trumpsters say the GOP wins the Keystone State for the first time in decades.

"In Pennsylvania," says state GOP chief Rob Gleason, "it's always about jobs and the economy. Our people feel left behind and underemployed."
"In Pennsylvania," says state GOP chief Rob Gleason, "it's always about jobs and the economy. Our people feel left behind and underemployed."Read moreJESSICA GRIFFIN / Staff Photographer

CLEVELAND - They offer anecdotal evidence. They talk trends, voter anger, abhorrence of Hillary.

They speak of the promise (really the hope) of winning Pennsylvania for the first time since 1988. And state Republicans leaving Cleveland after a convention of fear and loathing swear they have a case.

So when VP candidate Mike Pence addressed them Thursday morning, they roared as he shouted, "Make Pennsylvania red again!"

They think they can. They see signs small and large.

Erie delegate, former congressman, Phil English tells me about the Zukor Club, membership $10, a west-side Erie blue-collar bar with cheap booze in a Democratic town.

"I was in there with a dozen guys," he says, "11 are voting for Donald Trump."

Pittsburgh delegate Mary Ann Meloy says people she talks with believe Trump will bring back manufacturing.

She adds, "The deer hunters, not necessarily NRA people, but hunters who strongly believe in their gun rights" fear Clinton and are voting Trump.

And David Urban, Trump's Pennsylvania senior adviser, says that while handing out primary day palm cards for Trump delegates in Horsham, Montgomery County, lines of folks told him they never voted before.

"This is a movement, it's organic, people are turning out on their own," says Urban.

Little stuff, sure. Canaries in the mine. Omens maybe.

But making Pennsylvania red again?

In a state with 936,000-plus more registered Democrats than Republicans? A state where Hillary Clinton has roots, where she beat Barack Obama, where her husband won twice?

Here's the broader argument.

The Democrats' registration edge is shrinking. In 2012 it was 1.1 million. Clinton and hubby are old news. There's a visceral anti-Hillary vote (probably stronger than a pro-Trump vote). Nobody wants a "third term" of Obama or Clinton.

And there's clear unrest. A Quinnipiac Pennsylvania poll this month shows 72 percent of voters believe "old ways don't work and it's time for radical change."

The Donald in the White House is the definition of radical change.

Republicans argue the state's trending red: 13 of 18 congressmen, 53 of 67 courthouses, control of the state House and Senate.

And the state's economy is more sluggish - according to data from the census, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the Bureau of Economic Analysis - than economies in other big blue states such as California, New York, Minnesota, and Washington.

"In Pennsylvania," says state GOP chief Rob Gleason, "it's always about jobs and the economy. Our people feel left behind and underemployed."

(The aforementioned Quinnipiac poll shows Pennsylvania voters see Trump better than Clinton for jobs, 54-39.)

The national party seems to see Pennsylvania in play.

The state's convention seats were right up front. Speakers at the delegation's hotel included Speaker Paul Ryan, Donald Trump Jr., and Pence.

Yes, punditry in the Cook Political Report, the Rothenberg and Gonzales Political Report, and Larry Sabato's "crystal ball" still rates Pennsylvania "leaning" Democratic.

But CNN this week moved the state to "battleground," basically up for grabs. And the average of state polls, like the average of national polls, shows the race is tied.

Just remember. Republicans always claim Pennsylvania's in play.

They did in 2004; George W. Bush lost by two points. They did in 2008; John McCain was close but the economy collapsed, he lost by 10 points. They did in 2012; Mitt Romney paid little attention and lost the state by five points.

So get a grain of salt. And think of Tim Robbins as Andy Dufresne in The Shawshank Redemption: "Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies."