William Schwoyer sighs deeply as he looks down Corporate Center Drive in Reading, Pennsylvania.
Factory after factory has shut. For 37 years, Schwoyer has been a machine operator at Neenah Paper. But he just got word that his plant is closing. He’ll be jobless by Christmas.
“I started there when I was 19,” said Schwoyer, now 56. “I’ve never filled out a resume in my life.”
Donald Trump realized quickly that “left behind” workers like Schwoyer were angry — at Democrats, at Republicans, at the system. He promised to bring their jobs back from Mexico and China. And he vowed not to be another politician.
In a state that has lost a third of its manufacturing jobs since 2000, Trump’s message got people’s attention. Thousands pack high school gyms to hear Trump speak, especially in “Pennsyltucky,” the vast area between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh that is filled with farming and manufacturing towns like Reading.
But the message isn’t resonating with Schwoyer. “I just don’t trust [Trump] at all. He’s reality TV,” he said.
Schwoyer had made $22 an hour at Neenah Paper, which makes specialty paper products like the tissue used to package ritzy Tiffany gifts. He thinks he’ll get another job, but never anything that pays like the one he’s losing.
“$10 an hour jobs, $12 an hour jobs? You can’t have a real life doing that. You really can’t,” he said. He doesn’t think Trump — or anyone else — can bring the manufacturing jobs back. He’s telling his grandkids to study hard.
Trump’s advisers call Pennsylvania a “must win” state. As recently as September, that looked like a real possibility as the polls narrowed. Trump even had the support of Hamid Chaudhry, a Muslim-American in the Keystone State.
A Muslim-American who WAS for Trump
Chaudhry is a small business owner who runs Wyomissing Family Restaurant, a popular eatery just outside Reading. He immigrated to the U.S. from Pakistan in 1988 and became a citizen.
“I’m voting for Trump. I’m hoping my friends and neighbors will be employed again, and the manufacturing jobs will come back,” Chaudhry told CNNMoney in late September.
As a practicing Muslim, Chaudhry took a lot of heat for supporting Trump. But his No. 1 issue was the Reading economy, where nearly 40% live below the poverty line. He viewed his vote for Trump as a vote for jobs.
Then the “Access Hollywood” tape surfaced, showing Trump making vulgar and sexually aggressive comments in 2005.
“I’m not sure how I can explain to my 9-year-old daughter why I’m supporting Mr. Trump,” he said this week. He’s not sure what he’ll do on Election Day now.
He’s not alone. CNNMoney spoke with six committed Trump voters in Pennsylvania in late September. Two have now changed their minds because of the tape.
Can Trump still win Pennsylvania?
Trump still says he can win Pennsylvania. In fact, he’s gone as far as to say the only way he’ll lose Pennsylvania is “if cheating goes on.” But it’s clear Trump is in trouble in the Keystone State. He has been behind in the polls since the first debate.
Pennsylvania is known as “fool’s gold” for Republican presidential hopefuls. It hasn’t gone red in a presidential election since George H.W. Bush ran in 1988.
The problem for Republicans? The Philadelphia suburbs. Over 20% of the state’s voters live in the four counties that surround Philly. In 2000, registered Republicans outnumbered Democrats in the area by 357,000. Now Democrats have a slight edge.
Adam and Caroline Gamse typify the type of young, liberal couples moving to Montgomery County, a key Philly suburb.
Adam is an emergency room doctor and Caroline is a scientist who recently launched CG Medical Works, a medical writing company. They have three kids — and a Hillary Clinton sign in their front yard.
“Hillary is a much stronger candidate,” said Caroline.
The wealthy suburbs are a problem for Trump
While Trump talks about bringing back steel and coal jobs, they see Clinton as trying to usher in the “jobs of the future.” The Gamses are even willing to have their taxes go up to help ensure better infrastructure and educational opportunities for all Americans.
Clinton’s plan “would raise our taxes,” said Adam. “I’m willing to pay more to support what the plan of the country is. That’s fine.”
The image of Pennsylvania that has dominated national media this election is struggling, blue-collar towns. But the Philadelphia suburbs couldn’t be more different. They are prosperous and highly educated: 46% of people have college degrees in Montgomery County.
Beth Hamilton can feel the politics shifting in Montgomery County. She’s voted Republican in recent elections, but more of her friends and even some of her children vote Democratic.
She found Trump’s comments on the “Access Hollywood” tape “disgusting and despicable,” but she feels it’s “a little hypocritical to be so selectively outraged by this type of behavior when Hillary Clinton is and has been for years an enable of a sex abuser.”
Like many Americans, she doesn’t like any of her options for president in 2016. But when forced to pick, the long-time military wife and event planner is going with Trump. She just doesn’t trust Clinton on national security and immigration.
Ditching Trump for Pence
But for every Beth Hamilton in southeastern Pennsylvania, there’s a Virgil Kahl.
Kahl is a successful financial adviser in Reading who usually votes Republican. She was ready to go for Trump in September because she liked the idea of a businessman in the White House.
“I just think government is too big and too bureaucratic,” she said then. She prefer Trump’s plans to reduce taxes and government.
Now she’s changed her mind.
“If Trump cares about this country, he should step down,” she told CNNMoney this week after listening to the tape. She plans to write in Mike Pence.
Trump just couldn’t win Sanders supporters
In the end, Pennsylvania may come down to women. In 1996, it was the “soccer moms.” In 2016, it will likely be the “working moms.”
One of those is Lisa, another worker at the Neenah plant in Reading who is about to lose her job. She didn’t give her last name for fear it would impact her job hunt.
“Bernie was my guy. Hillary gets my vote by default,” said Lisa, who’s 55.
In fact, Bernie Sanders was the preferred candidate of a lot of blue collar workers. Clinton may have won the Pennsylvania primary, but Sanders topped her in Berks County, where Reading is located. Trump had hoped to sway the Sanders supporters to his camp. Lisa does share Trump’s view on trade.
“I personally believe that the trade agreements are what’s killing manufacturing in this area and others,” Lisa said.
But she thinks U.S. manufacturing will never be the same, regardless of what Trump promises, which is why she insisted her daughter go to college and get “an office job.” Trump’s personality also concerns her.
“I don’t like Trump because of his opinion of women. He looks at them as objects,” Lisa said in a rocking chair on her back porch overlooking Pennsylvania’s rolling hills.
CNN’s Poppy Harlow, Jordan Malter and Richa Naik contributed to this report.