US Ag secretary stumps for Clinton in Duncansville

DUNCANSVILLE – U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack rallied Democratic Party troops Thursday afternoon in Duncansville, calling on Hillary Clinton’s supporters to secure enough central Pennsylvania votes to defeat Republican Donald Trump.

Addressing an audience of about 70 at the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees office, Vilsack – a former Iowa governor and 2008 presidential hopeful – said Trump has driven a wedge in the GOP.

“You don’t have to convince every one of them,” Vilsack told a local Democrat who complained of Trump-supporting friends who wouldn’t budge. “You just have to squeeze the margins.”

Although polls show Clinton with a solid lead in Pennsylvania, the state remains a key battleground for both candidates. Both Trump and Clinton have swung through western and central Pennsylvania, and Vilsack said there’s little chance the Democrats would reduce their efforts here.

Vilsack acknowledged that areas like Blair County would be tough for Clinton, but he argued that a closer vote here on Nov. 8 would force heavily Democratic Philadelphia and Pittsburgh to carry less weight. Greater anti-Trump turnout in the state’s center could also force a win for U.S. Senate challenger Katie McGinty, he noted.

Vilsack’s Thursday run through central Pennsylvania came as Clinton sought to highlight Trump’s embrace of the so-called “alt-right,” a right-wing movement her campaign has tied to bigotry and white nationalism. Speaking in Nevada, Clinton contrasted Trump’s allies with more traditional Republicans and former GOP presidents.

“I don’t think she’s trying to drive a wedge,” Vilsack said after his address. “I think Donald Trump drove the wedge.”

That wedge has helped the Democrats turn traditionally Republican states into battlegrounds this year, seemingly leaving Pennsylvania more safe than in past elections. Nevertheless, Vilsack encouraged everyone at the union office to sign up for campaign shifts.

“It’s going to be hotly contested. There’s a reason it’s called the Keystone State,” he said.