BETHLEHEM, Pa .– Sarah Moore thought Donald Trump was a joke four years ago. Now she’s terrified that he won’t win another White House term.
One of the main reasons for his conversion is the future of the US economy.
“Now I am full. I even have a Trump mask in my bag, ”the mother of three school-aged children recently said in downtown Bethlehem, which is in the heart of a county that went from Democrat to Republican in 2016. and helped seal Mr. Trump’s shaken victories. on Hillary Clinton in Pennsylvania and therefore nationwide.
Mr. Trump likely needs repeat performance in November to take over Keystone state and stay in the White House.
“I never would have seen it coming,” said Ms. Moore, an independent voter. “I thought he was the biggest joke on the face of the earth but I was so happy he beat them all. Now, if he doesn’t win, I’m going to have the impression that there is no more hope in this country.
Ms Moore joins the majority of voters in Pennsylvania and other battlefield states who trust billionaire businessman more than Democratic challenger Joseph R. Biden to restore the economy, despite the backlash. issue of Mr. Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and race relations.
The economy, which remains the number one issue for most voters nationwide, keeps Mr. Trump competitive in dynamic states like Pennsylvania, where the Real Clear Politics average in recent polls places him behind Mr. Biden of 4, 3% percentage points.
A recent NBC News / Marist poll of likely voters in Pennsylvania gave Mr. Biden one of his biggest 9-point leads, but it also highlighted Mr. Trump’s dominance over the economy. .
Voters preferred Mr. Trump’s stewardship of the economy by 10 points, 51% to 41%, while favoring Mr. Biden in double digits to manage the pandemic and race relations.
“Joe Biden should be very concerned about this – very concerned about this,” veteran Democratic strategist Hank Sheinkopf said. “What this also tells you is that if this economy continues to grow, the voting distance between Trump and Biden should probably be reduced rather quickly.
Voters in Pennsylvania continue to trust Mr. Trump, despite the rest of the country being delayed in rebounding coronavirus lockdowns.
The state’s unemployment rate is one of the highest in the country. It went from 13% in June to 13.7% in July, according to the most recent state data available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The national unemployment rate fell to 8.4% last month, still high from 3.5% in February before the virus hit, but well below doomsday forecasts of the Great Depression figures by 20%.
Aubrey Figueroa, a waitress at a popular Bethlehem restaurant, continues to struggle. She had to give up working because her young children do not attend school full time.
“I’m afraid the economy will change dramatically and not for the better if Trump is not elected,” said Ms. Figueroa, 32, a registered Republican.
She said Mr. Trump could have handled the coronavirus crisis better, but did not blame Mr. Trump for the economic pain of the pandemic.
“I don’t blame him. I blame China,” she said.
Pennsylvania was the backbone of Mr. Trump’s 2016 strategy to garner blue-collar support to put several Rust Belt states in the GOP column for the first time in a generation.
Bethlehem and the surrounding area of Northampton County were instrumental in his victory. Lehigh Valley County sided with President Obama in 2012 by 4 percentage points and 6,000 votes. Mr. Trump took the county by 5 points and just over 6,000 votes.
Large fluctuations in the vote in places like Northampton County were in part a result of Mr. Trump’s ability to tap into the frustration felt by working-class Americans.
The region has struggled for more than two decades to recover from the closure of Bethlehem Steel, but has seen a revival in recent years with the factory’s conversion into a SteelStacks arts campus and Sands Casino Resort.
Despite the promise of economic expansion from a succession of presidents from both parties, they fought stagnant wages and dwindling job opportunities.
Under Mr Trump, the economic outlook had improved in the region until the coronavirus pandemic prompted Governor Tom Wolf, a Democrat, to order people to stay at home and close businesses and schools.
Before the coronavirus crisis, Mr. Trump presided over the return of nearly 500,000 manufacturing jobs to the United States, a feat considered unimaginable before taking office.
By comparison, over the eight years of the Obama administration, with Mr. Biden as vice president, the United States has lost about 300,000 manufacturing jobs. The countryside knows that the economy will make them or defeat them.
Mr Biden hits the president with accusations of causing the recession and being out of touch with workers. It offers a “Rebuild Better” program to revive the economy with green jobs and an environmentally friendly infrastructure program.
“The painful truth is that we just have a president who just doesn’t see it, he doesn’t feel it, he doesn’t understand, he doesn’t care. He thinks that if the stock market is going up, then everything is fine, ”Biden said in a recent speech.
Mr. Trump is bragging about the recovery that is underway and promises a return to the heartbreaking pre-virus economy. He also warns Mr. Biden would usher in an economic collapse.
“Joe Biden would end this recovery,” Trump said at a rally in Nevada, noting his rival’s promise to shut down the economy again if scientists say so. “You can’t just listen to your professionals, you have to make sense, you have to make a decision.”
In Pennsylvania, voters still associate Mr. Trump with the good times leading up to the pandemic, said Christopher Borick, director of the Institute of Public Opinion at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania.
“While our research shows that the president’s overall approval ratings for positions, his personal favorability and the handling of the COVID-19 situation are all viewed negatively by a majority of voters in the state, including those in the Northampton County, its stance on economic issues remains strong. and virtually unchanged since February, ”he said.
The institute’s poll in August found that 40% of Pennsylvania voters said their financial situation was better than when Mr. Trump took office, compared with just 10% who said it was worse and 50% who said it was unchanged. It was identical to the same poll in February.
“Since the economy remains the number one issue for voters, [it] helps explain how the President remains competitive here despite his major struggles in other areas, ”Borick said.
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