Sam DeMarco rejects the notion that Joe Biden has a lock on Pennsylvania’s electorate.
DeMarco, who chairs the Republican Committee of Allegheny County, says based on his observations and conversations with politicos and constituents in recent weeks, excitement for President Trump in Western Pennsylvania seems to be outpacing the level of support on display in 2016.
Among factors fueling the North Fayette Republican’s confidence in Trump’s reelection, despite recent polling showing Biden has a 6-point lead statewide: DeMarco says he knows of a growing number of Democrats and some once-wavering Republicans who say they are voting for Trump, even if there are things about the president that irk them.
“There may be people who don’t like Trump but will vote for him because of his policies. I can tell you, I’ve had no less than a dozen elected Democratic officials tell me that they were voting for Donald Trump,” DeMarco, an at-large member of Allegheny County Council from North Fayette, told the Tribune-Review.
“You can not like the president. You can not like the way he tweets or the way he communicates. I’m not a big fan of some of these things,” DeMarco said. “But at the end of the day, what matters are the policies put in place that allow you to feed your family and put a roof over your head. … People don’t like riots in the street. People want law and order.”
Less than a month before Election Day, the vast majority of likely American voters have made up their minds about the presidential candidates.
“We have a level of support the likes of which nobody has ever seen before,” Trump boasted Saturday afternoon from a terrace overlooking the White House lawn as supporters cheered him on and chanted, “We love you!”
Democrats were quick to criticize Trump for saying from the balcony that the “China virus” is “going to disappear and is disappearing” on a day when the United States logged 57,429 newly confirmed cases of covid-19 and Pennsylvania reported 36 new deaths and 1,742 new cases — the highest since April 10. The coronavirus has killed more than 213,000 Americans and infected more than 7.7 million.
But the persisting pandemic and even Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis “probably doesn’t matter” much in terms of gaining or losing his base of loyal supporters, said Harry Wilson, director of the Institute for Policy & Opinion Research at Roanoke College in Virginia.
“His supporters can’t be shaken away from him. The people on the other side who despise him,” said Wilson, “despise him no matter what.”
Some view the election not just as a choice between the two candidates, but as a referendum on one of many hot-button issues: the future shape of the nation’s highest court, how to respond to civil unrest over injustice and whether to preserve the Affordable Care Act.
Some leery Republicans fear that if Biden wins the White House and the Senate flips blue, Biden will attempt to “pack the courts,” or increase the number of Supreme Court justices, Wilson said.
Biden did not answer Trump when asked if he would do so during the debate.
At the same debate, Trump told Biden he didn’t know whether his nominee, Judge Amy Coney Barrett, would rule on issues related to Roe v. Wade and abortion rights, while Biden warned of a second-term Trump administration threatening to undo years of progress for women. Biden argued the Trump administration’s attempt to overturn the ACA could strip millions of people of their federally subsidized health care.
The rush to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court is a central issue but “seems to be working in Trump’s favor,” Wilson said.
Enthusiasm levels also remain a challenge for Biden, a 77-year-old lifelong politician. Polling consistently indicates Biden supporters are motivated more by opposition to Trump, 74, than by excitement about Biden.
“I question if those people are going to be motivated enough to vote,” DeMarco said.
Meanwhile, Trump’s support has remained unusually steady throughout his presidency, bucking historical norms.
“His numbers are just impervious to events,” Wilson said. “His numbers have been the same numbers for three-plus years. The economy gets better, it doesn’t matter. We get the pandemic and the economy tanks, it doesn’t matter. The economy starts recovering from the pandemic, it doesn’t matter.”
Two in five registered voters say they believe Trump has been doing an “excellent” or “good” job as president in the latest Franklin & Marshall College poll, which was released Thursday, with 80% of Republicans saying so compared with 5% of Democrats and 35% of independents.
The Biden campaign is striving to appeal to centrists and turn out votes from progressives who don’t find the former vice president and his priorities nearly as appealing as former Democratic candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders.
An AP VoteCast survey of primary voters across 17 states in February and March found that 54% of Sanders backers said they would be dissatisfied if Biden were the nominee. Only 28% of all Democratic primary voters said the same. In three states that voted March 17 — Florida, Arizona and Illinois — some Sanders supporters went further, vowing not to support Biden.
Thirteen percent said they would definitely not vote for Biden, and an additional 10% said they probably would not.
Although Trump scored a narrow, 44,000-vote victory in the Keystone State in 2016, a recent Franklin & Marshall College poll showed Biden leading Trump by 6 percentage points among likely voters.
“In 2016, people made us feel as Trump supporters like we were crazy. They laughed at us. They said there was no path to victory for Donald Trump,” senior campaign adviser Lara Trump said during a stop in McCandless earlier this week while stumping for her father-in-law as part of a “Women for Trump” bus tour. “Newsflash, ladies and gentleman: the polls are wrong when it comes to Donald Trump. And they’re doing the same thing again.”
(Natasha Lindstrom writes for The Tribune-Review.)