Can Trump gain with Ohio Democrats on economic issues?

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Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Canton, Ohio, U.S., September 14, 2016.  REUTERS/Mike Segar - RTSNSQX

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JUDY WOODRUFF: Now part two of our on-the-ground report from Ohio, one of the crucial swing states in this presidential election.

Chasing the Dream

Tonight, John Yang reports from a county in Northeastern Ohio that’s normally a Democratic stronghold, but where, because of the sluggish economy, Republicans are hoping to make inroads.

This story is also part of our ongoing reporting initiative Chasing the Dream: poverty and Opportunity in America.

JOHN YANG: In the Moore household in Newton Falls, Ohio, Donald Trump’s approval rating is just about 100 percent, three generations of voters, including a longtime Democrat who’s never voted Republican, enthusiastically backing the New York millionaire.

You might call 21-year-old Danny Moore a Trump scholar. He wrote a college paper about his nomination.

DANNY MOORE, Newton Falls, Ohio Resident: It was about the desire to be part of the movement to return America to its greatness and dominance in the world. The dominance of Donald Trump leads his supporters to believe he can and will do this for America.

JOHN YANG: He got an A.

DAN MOORE, Newton Falls, Ohio Resident: We’re on a course that is not sustainable.

JOHN YANG: Danny gave Trump’s book, “The Art of the Deal,” to his father, Dan, a self-described swing voter who says he was on the Obama bandwagon in 2008 and 2012.

And now? Who are you voting for this fall?

DAN MOORE: Absolutely Donald Trump. With him being a real estate developer and being involved in the construction industry, he had to be a good problem-solver.

FRANCES KIMPTON, Newton Falls, Ohio Resident: He’s going to build the wall, and they’re going to pay for it.

JOHN YANG: Dan’s 75-year-old mother-in-law, Frances Kimpton, is a lifelong Democrat who switched parties to vote for Trump in the Ohio primary.

FRANCES KIMPTON: I would go in, and I would vote straight down the ticket everything Democrat. But now I’m going to do everything Republican. And I can’t wait to do it.

JOHN YANG: Trumbull County is one of Ohio’s most reliably Democratic counties, delivering majorities around 60 percent to the party’s nominees since 1996.

But Trump is trying to narrow that gap here and across Northeastern Ohio. He’s visited the region five times since August with a message about the economy.

DONALD TRUMP (R), Presidential Nominee: We’re going to bring jobs back to Ohio.

JOHN YANG: It’s an appeal tailor-made for Trumbull County. One out of every four jobs that was here 15 years ago is gone, 26,000 in all, including more than 1,000 that disappeared when this steel mill closed in 2012.

Dan Moore, a member of the United Steel Workers Union, has watched the industry’s slow, painful decline.

DAN MOORE: working-class families were being hurt. They’re losing their homes, they’re losing their cars. One day, you’re middle class or upper middle class, and the next day you’re poverty class.

JOHN YANG: He blames trade deals like NAFTA championed by President Bill Clinton.

DAN MOORE: I believe that Donald Trump can do something to help, you know, make it a fairer playing board. He’s been very clear about his position on NAFTA. I believe that a Trump presidency will take a close look at NAFTA and the language of that agreement, and, if it can’t be reformed, he’s on record saying we will walk away from it.

JOHN YANG: Like her son-in-law, Frances Kimpton doesn’t think President Obama has done enough.

FRANCES KIMPTON: When Obama was running, I voted for him. And then I found out that he didn’t live up to what he said he was going to do. I voted for him twice, and I couldn’t believe how the situation is now.

JOHN YANG: Trade has been an issue in Trumbull County since native son William McKinley was president. It was at his memorial in Niles that we spoke with Kyle Kondik of the University of Virginia Center for Politics. He wrote a book about Ohio’s significance in presidential elections, “The Bellwether.”

KYLE KONDIK, University of Virginia Center for Politics: These are areas where anti-free trade populism has been popular for a very long time. This is generally a region that feels like maybe it has not benefited from trade agreements such as NAFTA.

Trumbull County was actually Trump’s second best county in the whole state in terms of the primary, and there’s some thought that that will translate to the general election as well.

JOHN YANG: But Trump’s message doesn’t resonate with other Democrats here, even though they see the same economic conditions.

At Hillary Clinton’s local field office, Marie Yancey, a retired autoworker, was making phone calls.

MARIE YANCEY: With Obama saving our jobs, she’s going to continue on. If they had let the auto industry fail, how many jobs around here would we not have? So, that’s why she has my vote.

JOHN YANG: We talked to some steelworkers who talk about the steel jobs that have gone away. And they talked about trade. Some of them are Democrats. They say that is the reason they’re going to vote for Trump.

What do you say to them?

MARIE YANCEY: I don’t understand where their thinking comes from. I just don’t trust Trump. I think Trump thinks this presidency is like running “The Apprentice.” You can’t just say, you’re hired.

JOHN YANG: Jim Roan is a retired banker.

JIM ROAN: I don’t really see anything concrete about what he’s talking about. It’s fine to say, this has got to change, and I’m going to change it, but unless he’s Superman, which I don’t think he is, it just isn’t going to change that easily.

There’s some very deep-seated problems here, and they’re not going to go away instantly.

JOHN YANG: In this topsy-turvy election year, the traditional voting patterns in this crucial battleground state are in doubt.

Analyst Kyle Kondik:

KYLE KONDIK: The key question about Ohio is, how much can Clinton gain amongst traditional Republicans in the affluent suburbs vs. how much can Trump gain with traditional Democrats in the maybe-not-so-affluent blue-collar regions of the state?

JOHN YANG: Like this county, where declining economic fortunes are leading voters like the Moores to rethink their political allegiances.

For the “PBS NewsHour,” I’m John Yang in Trumbull County, Ohio.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And we will bring you additional Chasing the Dream ground reports in the coming weeks.

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