Dispatch from Cleveland: Can Pennsylvania swing?

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    Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump

    Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump

    Pennsylvania delegates suffering from a Ted Cruz hangover and bleary from too much convention got a wake-up call at their Thursday breakfast caucus from the Republican party’s newest, if not brightest star: vice presidential nominee, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence.

    “I promise you that Donald Trump and Mike Pence will be standing and campaigning with you, shoulder to shoulder, across the four corners of Pennsylvania,” Pence exhorted as delegates pushed their half-eaten eggs and sausage aside to stand and applaud.

    It’s a measure of the state’s importance to the Trump campaign that the Pennsylvania delegation has been visited this week by House Speaker Paul Ryan; Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, who gave Trump’s nomination speech; Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst; Donald Trump Jr., who talked about learning to hunt in Pennsylvania; and today, the prospective veep.

    Pence’s visit was short, but he got plenty of cheers and standing ovations.

    The point of these visits, and much of the convention itself, is to fire up the troops. In Pennsylvania’s case, that means convincing them that they can win the state for a Republican presidential candidate for the first time in 28 years.

    Keeping hope alive

    The Pennsylvania crew faces this task knowing that the Trump campaign hasn’t been advertising in the state, while Clinton has, and that Trump hasn’t developed either a regional fundraising network or any real campaign organization here.

    There is still no one from the Trump campaign from Pennsylvania who can answer reporters’ questions, to cite one small deficiency.

    And there’s the little problem that the party really isn’t united.

    “There’s a lot of friction under the surface here,” said Doug Brubaker, the Lancaster County delegate who was the only one from Pennsylvania not to vote for Trump in the Tuesday night roll call.

    Brubaker is a Ted Cruz supporter, and that’s one class of disaffected Republicans. Others regard Trump as racially insensitive, erratic, or ideologically extreme. More than half the state’s Congressional delegation chose not to come to the convention.

    Maybe none of that matters if you have a candidate who’s a transformational figure, or at least one who’s the right fit for voters feeling dispirited and betrayed.

    I’ve spent the week with a lot of Trump supporters who are deeply inspired by the man. Tonight, he has a chance on prime time to get others to see him that way.

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