The woman behind ‘Trump House’ works to keep Pennsylvania red, one vote at a time

YOUNGSTOWN, Pennsylvania — The morning after the night before, and the line for the Trump House is 75 strong.

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Most were at the previous night’s rally to see President Trump fly in on Air Force One and are rounding off their visit to this corner of Pennsylvania with pictures in front of the red, white, and blue building, posing for selfies with the 14-foot figure of Trump, and collecting a free hat and yard sign in the crowded interior.

Others will take down a form from the bins on the wall and, with help from owner Leslie Rossi, 49, register to vote for the first time or flip their party allegiance.

She says the enthusiasm reminds her of four years ago, when she realized that Trump was going to beat Hillary Clinton.

“Four years later, this is different,” she said. “What I’m finding is, I’m helping people change their party, register to vote. We have had many people in their 80s, 90s say they have never voted in their life.”

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Visitors pose for photographs on the front porch of the Trump House in Youngstown, PA. Rob Crilly

Her anecdotal evidence is borne out by party statistics. Last month, Republicans said they had picked up 165,000 net voters in Pennsylvania, compared with Democrats’ loss of 30,000 since 2016. It still leaves the party trailing by 800,000 registrations, but it gives a sense of the challenge facing Democratic nominee Joe Biden if he is to overturn the 44,000 deficit from 2016.

He must also reckon with the efforts of the tireless Rossi in Youngstown, just down the road from Pittsburgh.

The developer and landlord owns 66 houses. This is the only one with a stars and stripes flag decorated with rifles and handguns on the wall and a lifesize cut-out of Biden emerging from the basement. (“Keep your kids away,” says one of the guides deployed to manage the 1,500 visitors on busy days.)

The idea came to her in 2016, when she was worried the Republican establishment would block Trump’s nomination. He had won the Pennsylvania primary, but that only guaranteed him 17 out of 71 delegates. The rest were unbound.

Three days, $1,000, and one coat of paint later, and the Trump House was finished. Rossi would stand at the roadside, and as drivers pulled in to gawk at its design, she would explain to them that if they wanted Trump to clinch the nomination, they needed to ensure they chose the right delegates for the convention.

“And people wouldn’t even know what a delegate was,” she said.

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A visitor to the Trump House picks out a free T-shirt. Rob Crilly

A steady stream of people interrupt her to ask for photographs. One man has registered to vote for the first time. Another is clutching a new yard sign.

“That’s where it started, but that’s not where it ended,” continued the mother of eight. “It turned into a big deal.”

“In 2016, the political discussions here were intense. There were many, many Democrats who couldn’t vote for Hillary. They didn’t necessarily like Trump, so they came here to talk,” she said. “It was the coolest thing ever.”

Today, the house is part education center, part museum, detailing Rossi’s meetings with Trump, her visit to the White House for the president’s convention speech last month. One wall of the crowded room inside is filled with MAGA hats — each visitor can take a T-shirt or hat for free. And there are many takers.

Youngstown and surrounding, rural Westmoreland County were among the keys to Trump’s victory. Voters backed the New York property mogul at a rate of 2 to 1.

But it is here where Democratic strategists believe Biden must make inroads. Clinton lost Rust Belt states such as Wisconsin and Michigan, in part because she lost support in big urban centers, including Milwaukee and Detroit.

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More than 1000 people a day visit the Trump House, according to owner Leslie Rossi. Rob Crilly

But her vote held up better in Philadelphia and its suburbs. Bringing out more votes in Democratic strongholds may be more difficult than shaving off a few Trump percentage points in rural counties.

Both sides are pouring time and resources into the state.

Trump was in Scranton, Biden’s hometown, last month before returning to Westmoreland County for a hangar rally on Thursday. Vice President Mike Pence held a “Workers for Trump” rally at a construction company close to Scranton.

Richard Zahrobsky, a retired newspaper production worker who had driven in from Mount Pleasant with his wife, said Trump’s attacks on Biden for failing to protect American jobs were resonating. As he waited in line for his free T-shirt, he added: “He’s going to have to make it because if he doesn’t, we’re doomed.”

Tags: News, Donald Trump, Joe Biden, Pennsylvania, 2020 Elections, Campaign

Original Author: Rob Crilly

Original Location: The woman behind ‘Trump House’ works to keep Pennsylvania red, one vote at a time

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