Trump backers ecstatic, if surprised, by their candidate's win

APTOPIX 2016 Election Trump
President-elect Donald Trump smiles as he arrives to speak at an election night rally, Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016, in New York.

All summer, as polls fluctuated, gaffes abounded, and pundits insisted Donald Trump would never win the presidency, the candidate's loyal voters in the Philadelphia area hung on.

On Wednesday morning, with Trump now the president-elect of the United States, some said they never wavered in their belief that the real estate developer and reality television star would make it to the White House. Others said Tuesday's upset of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton had left them just as shocked as Democrats, albeit with a much more optimistic outlook for the next four years.

"I thought his chances of winning were less than 50 percent, so I was elated when he pulled it out," said State Rep. Steve Barrar (R., Delaware), who won reelection Tuesday night. Those calling to congratulate him that night expressed "disbelief in a very, very happy way" about Trump's victory.

Clinton won Philadelphia and its suburbs and all but nine counties in New Jersey. But pockets of Trump voters across the region were giddy.

"Huge," said Philadelphia GOP Chairman Joe DeFelice, borrowing from his candidate's vocabulary. "We're really excited."

He said that the party, with no hope of winning heavily blue Philadelphia, typically tries to shift the voting margins and focused this year on attracting blue-collar voters, including Democrats, instead of "Center City-type Republicans, Chestnut Hill-type Republicans."

Trump "had baggage, and he has baggage, and we have to work with that," DeFelice said. "Thankfully, we were going against a candidate with much more baggage than him."

He said he saw the election as an opportunity to recruit Philadelphia voters to an "urban Republican brand," which is typically at odds with the party's presidential candidates. But he said he believed Trump fit that bill surprisingly well.

"He's from New York City, he knows Philly," he said, and said Trump had spent a lot of time in the city this fall - "more than any Republican candidate in recent memory."

Rob Gleason, chairman of the Republican Party of Pennsylvania, said he had been "bound and determined to win" the state this year.

Gleason said the party's polls were promising, and anecdotally, voters' yards showed more enthusiasm than in years past. Instead of waiting for the party to distribute yard signs to voters, this year "they were buying their own signs and making signs."

Now, "what [Trump] needs to do is deliver. Deliver on his promises," Gleason said. "And I expect that he will. And if he doesn't, I'll be telling him that."

In Trump's old stomping grounds in Atlantic City, Rosemary Wlazlowski said the mood at the Best of Life Park - a senior citizens' home just across from the now-shuttered Trump Taj Mahal - had been jubilant, with some residents giving each other thumbs-up in the hallways.

Wlazlowski said she was a Democrat but had never voted for President Obama. He was too far left, she said, and she felt Clinton would only continue his legacy.

"I just feel Trump's going to do so much more than what the others would do," she said.

As Calvin Tucker watched Tuesday's election coverage on television in his Mount Airy home, there were no fists pumping, no tears of joy.

"I had the expectation that he was going to win all along. That's why I supported him," Tucker, 64, said.

Tucker is a second-generation Republican and the only black delegate from Pennsylvania at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland this summer.

He served as the campaign's Pennsylvania surrogate during the fall campaign. He said he hoped Trump would deport undocumented immigrants and end Philadelphia's status as a sanctuary city.

In South Philadelphia, Maria McCloskey, who works two jobs as a waitress and bartender, said a candidate had never spoken to her like Donald Trump had. She said watching him win on Tuesday night was "like watching the 2008 World Series all over again."

She also connected with his tough stance on immigration, and his assertions that the working class has been left behind. She said she had been vocal about her support for Trump, wearing Trump pins on her bus to work, and never encountered resistance for her choice.

But Northeast Philadelphia's Somerton neighborhood is true Trump country, where more people turned out for the president-elect than any other area, voting data show.

"To be honest, I wasn't thrilled with either candidate," said Ellen Coyle, a retired Philadelphia reading teacher, getting her nails done at a Bustleton Avenue salon.

"But I felt Trump was a change, and we needed that."

Married for 54 years to a now-retired firefighter, Coyle has three sons and five grandchildren. She said she and her husband worked hard all their lives to own a home and raise a family in it.

"We struggled, and I feel others should, too," Coyle said. She, like others in her neighborhood - where there is a large Russian immigrant community - said she also wanted Trump to mitigate the flow of immigrants.

"The idea of a nation with an open door is beautiful," Coyle said. "But we can't let all people in."

In Holland, Bucks County, where margins between Trump and Clinton were razor-thin, Rich Kohn never expected his candidate to win.

"For him to shake up everything was good enough for me, even if he didn't get elected," said Kohn, 50, a small-business owner and father of three. He said he was frustrated by gridlock in Washington, the recession, and rising premiums under the Affordable Care Act.

Trump seemed different, with broad promises of an end to the status quo and big change coming for the working man. That was enough for Kohn.

"He woke up a good bit of people," Kohn said. "Am I afraid he's going to push the nuclear button? Not at all. You think Donald Trump wants to live in a cave?"

awhelan@philly.com

215-854-2961

@aubreyjwhelan

Staff writers Mensah M. Dean, Alfred Lubrano, Michaelle Bond, Chris Palmer, Allison Steele, and Caitlin McCabe contributed to this article.