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Northampton County, Pennsylvania flipped from reliably blue to backing Trump and despite his disappointments, many still say there was no better alternative

Every Christmas, Jeff and Denise Fox have the neighbors over. The door stays open all day. People come and go for food, coffee and conversation.

The tradition continued after Jeff, 58, was diagnosed with cancer in 2009. Even with chemotherapy and the medical bills racking up, the Foxes found reasons to celebrate. This year, those reasons include their sons transfer from an air force base in South Korea to one in Germany and, they hope, out of harms way.

Jeff Fox, 58, a cancer survivor, and retired furniture salesman, at his residence on 13 December 2017 in Pen Argyl, Pennsylvania. Photograph: Mark Makela for the Guardian

Last year, the reasons to celebrate included the election of Donald Trump. Both registered Republicans, neither Fox had started as a huge fan of the Manhattan real-estate developer. Jeff supported Carly Fiorina in the sprawling Republican primary contest, and Denise, 54, admired Ben Carson, a fellow evangelical Christian.

Their votes mattered a lot because the Foxes live in Northampton County, Pennsylvania, a bellwether county that voted twice for Barack Obama before backing Trump. The area is home to many ageing Democrats whose family politics were forged from the unionized ranks of Bethlehem Steel, once the regions economic juggernaut, or in the formerly vibrant clothing mills and slate quarries around the Foxes home in Pen Argyl.

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