Trump risks losing Rust Belt counties | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, October 20, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 03:16 AM, October 20, 2020


Trump risks losing Rust Belt counties

In 2016, he won these on the economy, in 2020, he might lose them over coronavirus

Tanya Wojciak, a lifelong Republican and suburban mom from northeast Ohio, is the kind of battleground state voter President Donald Trump can't afford to lose - but already has. 

She is angry at Trump's handling of the novel coronavirus crisis that has killed more than 219,000 Americans, the largest death toll of any country. She lost a friend to Covid-19 in April.

Wojciak, 39, said Trump's spotty use of masks and repeated attempts to downplay the seriousness of the coronavirus - even after being hospitalized for it himself - is "not presidential at all." She said she regrets voting for him four years ago. A hand-painted Biden sign now graces her front lawn in Cortland.

Some 547 km east, in Bangor, Pennsylvania, Leo Bongiorno says he, too, is voting for Biden after sitting out the 2016 contest.

Customers at Bongiorno's brewery and eatery, Bangor Trust Brewing, remained scarce even after Pennsylvania began to ease its bar-and-restaurant restrictions in June. Daily Covid-19 infections in the state reached their highest totals since mid-April this month, and Bongiorno says many of his regulars are too nervous to go to bars.

The federal relief loan he received was less than he would have made collecting unemployment checks, and the brewery's monthly bills dwarf sales. He said the country needs a president who understands what small businesses need to survive a pandemic - and that isn't Trump.

Rust Belt battleground states including Ohio and Pennsylvania handed Trump the White House in 2016, and they will again help decide the Nov 3 election. Four years ago, Trump's message of economic revitalization won votes from many white, working-class voters who had cast ballots for Democrat Barack Obama in 2012.

Many of those voters remain loyal to the president. Still, support for Trump is slipping in these states this year, and the pandemic is a big reason why. Reuters/Ipsos polling, conducted Oct. 9-13, showed 50% of likely voters nationwide feel Biden would be better at managing the pandemic response, compared to 37% for Trump.

Opinion polling in the battleground states of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin shows that voters there, too, think Biden is the better candidate to lead on the coronavirus.

In 2016, many residents in these states liked Trump's protectionist trade philosophy, strong defense of gun rights and hard-line stance on immigration. Now some have had enough.

The Biden campaign has also have made major inroads among older voters, who are afraid of the virus. Trump won the 55-plus age group by 13 percentage points in 2016. The two candidates now split American voters aged 55 years and older almost evenly: 47% say they will vote for Biden, while 46% back Trump.

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