By Salena Zito
New York Post
YOUNGSTOWN, Pa. — Ken Reed sat down at the main bar of the Tin Lizzy tavern with two things in mind: to dig into the tavern’s oversize cheese steak, and watch the presidential debate.
“I am hungry and undecided, in that order,” he said, digging into the savory dish in a bar that dates back to 1746.
Kady Letoksy, a paralegal by day, a waitress and bartender at night at the Tin Lizzy, sat beside him. At 28, she has never voted before, and she is now thinking it might be a good idea to start.
Letosky entered the evening undecided in a town that is heavily Democratic in registration. Her sister and father are on opposite sides of the political aisle. Donald “Trump had the upper hand this evening,” she said, citing his command of the back-and-forth between him and Hillary Clinton.
Reed, 35, is a registered Democrat and small businessman. “By the end of the debate, Clinton never said a thing to persuade me that she had anything to offer me or my family or my community,” he said, sitting at the same bar that has boasted local icons as regulars, such as the late Fred Rogers, and Arnold Palmer, who had his own stash of PM Whiskey hidden behind newer bottles of whiskey for his regular visits.
“Have to say Trump had the edge this evening, he came out swinging but also talked about specifics on jobs and the economy,” Reed said.
Reed said Clinton came across as either smug or as though she was reading her résumé, adding there was nothing on her résumé that touched on his life. “I am a small businessman, a farmer, come from a long line of farmers and coal miners. The policies she talked about tonight ultimately either hurt me or ignore me,” he said.
How apropos for this presidential election that these patrons chose the Tin Lizzy — a 270-year-old tavern in this small Westmoreland County town — as the place to watch the historic debate between Clinton and Trump.
The tavern’s namesake is the Model T, the first affordable automobile available to America’s working class, which eventually became slang for something quite different.
If someone said you were “going the way of the Tin Lizzy,” it meant your job or industry was in decline, no longer useful.
That is how today’s cosmopolitan and political classes view Main Street voters — as people whose values, traditions, skills, jobs and lives are being replaced by something new.
“I’ve been a Democrat all of my life, but when Clinton mentions her husband and the jobs he brought to the country in the ’90s, it’s not a fair assessment. She is no moderate Democrat the way he was, her policies would not bring back jobs,” said Nathan Nemick.
It burns Nemick when Clinton references her husband, like she did in the debate on trade and jobs. “She is nothing like him,” he said of the Democrat he admired in his youth.
Pennsylvania is a high-stakes state for both candidates, but particularly Clinton, and Westmoreland is a high-stakes county, particularly for Trump.
She needs to win this state, and he needs not just to win this county but to do so by 2,000 more votes than Mitt Romney did in 2012.
Westmoreland is one of about 10 formerly or traditionally Democrat-blue counties across the state where Trump must drive up a higher-than-normal turnout, or even flip them to Republican red, in order to offset an anticipated high turnout for Clinton in Philadelphia.
The other counties are Cambria, Greene, Fayette and Washington in the southwest corner of the state and Bucks, Lackawanna, Lancaster, Luzerne and York in the east.
Between 1960 and 2000, Westmoreland County Democrats handily won presidential races with one exception: Ronald Reagan’s 1980 victory.
By 1984, voters here were back to their Democratic allegiances, giving their votes to Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis and Bill Clinton.
When Al Gore turned the party toward its progressive wing in 2000, however, he left behind Westmoreland County Democrats.
Democrats here are more traditional in their values — they are pro-gun, pro-life, pro-coal, something today’s Democratic Party has left no room for.
Trump probably connects better with such voters than did Romney in 2012, or John McCain in 2008; a large part of the reason is his outside-the-box style. Yet for him to win the state, such voters need to turn out in force — here and elsewhere — to offset Philly’s overwhelming numbers.
Before the debate, the latest CNN poll showed a virtual tie in the Keystone State.
Outside the bar, a lone sign lit up the quiet corner of the old Lincoln Highway: “RIP Mr. Palmer, Forever in our hearts,” honoring Arnold Palmer, who died Sunday.
“He was just a regular guy, just a working-class guy at heart like everyone else around here,” said Jim Sciabica, the unofficial bar manager and small businessman who kept “Mr. Palmer’s” PM Whiskey tucked in a corner away from patrons and workers.
Other viewers across the country were disappointed in what they saw from both sides of the debate: