‘I Gave the Other Guy a Shot’

ERIE, Pa. — Mark Graham, a real estate appraiser in this faded manufacturing hub, sat with friends at a gym named FitnessU on the morning after the Democratic debate in mid-September. He had voted for Barack Obama, but in 2016 he took a gamble on Donald Trump. Although he called the president’s conduct in office “a joke,” he was unwilling to commit to voting Democratic in 2020,unconvinced by the 10 party hopefuls the night before.

Jump ahead to October and Democrats in Congress are investigating evidence of President Trump’s possible abuse of power. Mr. Graham has had an electoral conversion.

“Things have changed in the last couple weeks: More stupidity has come out,’’ Mr. Graham, 69, said in a telephone interview last week. He hopes Democrats nominate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., but he is not particular. “I’d vote for the Democratic nominee no matter who it is at this point,” he said. “If Mr. Trump gets into another four years, where he’s a lame duck, it’s going to be like adding gasoline to the fire.”

Heading into 2020, there is intense focus among campaign strategists on the weakest element of the Trump coalition: the millions of voters who disapproved of both major candidates in 2016 but took a chance on Mr. Trump. Whether an impeachment inquiry moves Obama-Trump voters like Mr. Graham off the fence, one way or the other, is a major narrative arc in the 2020 script that is rapidly unfolding and updating.

Erie County in western Pennsylvania holds a wealth of these conflicted voters. That much was clear in interviews conducted in the days after the 2016 election, and it’s clear now. Mr. Trump won an upset national victory by carrying places just like Erie County, long a blue-collar Democratic stronghold; he won here thanks to a 17-point swing from Mr. Obama’s margin of victory in 2012. The area’s flip from blue to red was a microcosm of how Mr. Trump pulled off narrow victories in this state as well as in Michigan and Wisconsin.

Erie County in western Pennsylvania holds a wealth of these conflicted voters. That much was clear in interviews conducted in the days after the 2016 election, and it’s clear now. Mr. Trump won an upset national victory by carrying places just like Erie County, long a blue-collar Democratic stronghold; he won here thanks to a 17-point swing from Mr. Obama’s margin of victory in 2012. The area’s flip from blue to red was a microcosm of how Mr. Trump pulled off narrow victories in this state as well as in Michigan and Wisconsin.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Article URL : https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/07/us/politics/trump-democrats-pennsylvania-.html

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