Pollsters are seeing a similar wave building today.
“We had a poll [on Aug. 26] that shows a serious problem with Democratic Party turnout. Argall’s greatest hope is that Democrats will stay home and that angry Republicans will dominate the electorate,” says G. Terry Madonna, who directs the Franklin & Marshall College Poll.
“If Tim Holden loses, the Democrats will lose control of the House,” he adds. “If it happens in that district with him, it happens all over the country.”
The 17th Congressional District of Pennsylvania was drawn up as a Republican district after the 2000 census, but Holden has held it since 2003. The district runs from Harrisburg, the capital, east through Pennsylvania Dutch farms, where tourist buses share narrow roads with Amish and Mennonite buggies. The mountains to the northeast of the district are the heart of an expiring anthracite coal industry.
Families in this part of Pennsylvania have worked in the mines for generations. Many who came to the recent picnic recall a time when there were more than 120 independent mines in this region. Today there are two.
The miners' picnic famously includes tub-size vats of soup – bean, chicken noodle, and oxtail – heated on coal fires. Miners, most now retired, talk about the old days and their contempt for a national government that they say has declared war on coal and their way of life.