The Trump Ohio suburb slide signals the danger in the industrial north

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Peggy Lehner, a senator from the Republican state of Ohio, does not grieve what she saw happen to support President Donald Trump in his suburban district of Dayton.

“It hasn’t diminished. It collapsed, “said Lehner, who is not seeking re-election in the district of the working-class and white-collar communities that the president comfortably won four years ago.” It’s really doing badly among the independents. “

Trump’s chances for a second term depend heavily on his ability to maintain the margins he won in 2016, particularly in suburban areas. He plans to campaign outside Toledo on Monday, as the death of Liberal Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg stirs up the question of whether the sudden court vacancy will spur more suburban voters who support abortion rights or social conservatives in small towns. and in rural areas that oppose them.

Ohio lawmakers and Republican strategists say they see research showing an almost uniform drop in support from its 2016 totals in every suburban region of the state.

They say Trump, who won Ohio by 8 percentage points in 2016, maintains a careless lead in more rural areas and small towns. However, Republicans are concerned that if he’s losing badly in suburban Ohio areas, it’s a sign that Trump’s hold on other states in the industrial heartland that handed him over as president could be in jeopardy.

“The million dollar question becomes, how does that translate into Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania?” said Corry Bliss, a Republican strategist who managed Ohio Senator Rob Portman’s 2016 re-election campaign. “It probably translates into a not-so-good night.”

Ohio has long been a landmark. No Republican has won the White House without leading the state since the advent of the modern two-party system, and no Democrat has since 1960.

Trump is faring worse than four years ago in communities in essentially all suburban areas around Ohio, from its major cities to its various midsize metropolitan areas, say more than half a dozen Republican agents following the bids in Ohio.

Trump has slipped into the eastern and western suburbs of Cleveland, where he narrowly missed Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in 2016, they say. In the working-class suburb of Youngstown, where Trump has won by double figures, the same appears to be true.

In affluent suburbs, such as Dublin northwest of Columbus, 2012 GOP candidate Mitt Romney won by nearly 20 percentage points. Four years later, Trump narrowly lost to Clinton. Less than two months before the 2020 election, Republicans were concerned about signs that the trend in Dublin has continued, according to several GOP agents after the legislative and congressional contests.

There is a debate among the state’s Republican strategists over the number of new voters left to raise Trump in the small, rural towns of Ohio.

Former Ohio Republican Party President Kevin DeWine, second cousin of Governor Mike DeWine, said, “I don’t see him getting more votes.”

But veteran Ohio GOP strategist Doug Preisse retorted, saying, “I see a proportional escalation in support for Trump in small towns.”

There is less debate in other states. Pennsylvania Republicans say, for example, through the long-standing stronghold of Chester County west of Philadelphia, Trump slipped into suburban Ohio, though in the most populous cities and one state he got fewer than 45,000 votes. .

Former Pennsylvania Republican Ryan Costello said the suburban electorate is rapidly diversifying in ways that harm Trump, especially among young families and those who are worried about the coronavirus.

“I think Trump has shown himself to be the accelerator,” Costello said.

Hillary Clinton led Chester County by nearly 10 percentage points, the first Democrat to win there since Lyndon Johnson in 1964. Chester is also growing steadily, with a population of around 525,000, the fourth largest in the state.

“I think there is a greater chance right now that Trump is doing worse in the suburbs,” Costello said. “It’s his tone. It is chaos. Maybe a combination. But certainly the pandemic, the mismanagement of the pandemic “.

But there are other, more nuanced suburban concerns for Trump in Pennsylvania.

Just west of the state capital, Harrisburg, the rapid development of Cumberland County is diversifying the capital’s long-standing Republican-led suburbs. The combination of rising and falling support for Trump in general in the suburbs hurt the president in south-central Pennsylvania’s 10th Congressional District, where Trump won by 9 percentage points in 2016, said Terry Madonna, director of the Center for Politics. and Public Affairs at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

A central question is whether Trump can, as his campaign predicts, spur even more support than in 2016 from rural voters in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin.

“Trump is a leader in these areas, but he is nowhere near the percentage he won them in 2016,” said Madonna, who has been polling the state for more than three decades.

Republicans have similar concerns about Michigan’s suburbs, especially Oakland County, Detroit’s most exclusive north-western neighbor and Michigan’s second most populous county. Democrats have always pushed it forward, even though Republican George W. Bush came very close in 2000 and 2004, while Mitt Romney was competitive in 2012.

Trump has done worse than any Republican in the past 20 years, except for John McCain in 2008.

But Trump seems less concerned about supporting those losses, and instead is digging up rural regions, small towns and the working class in all three states to get more of the conservative white base that propelled him into office.

Trump campaigned in Bay City, Michigan last week, a struggling former auto manufacturing town on Lake Huron where he won in 2016 after Obama took Bay County twice.

Likewise, Trump has lost support in the populous suburbs of Southeast Wisconsin since 2016, according to the Marquette University Law School poll. Instead, he campaigned in Oshkosh and the Wausau area, north of the Republican epicenter surrounding Milwaukee.

Wisconsin Republicans promoting legislative candidates in the typically GOP-prone suburbs of Ozaukee County north of Milwaukee and Waukesha County west of the city warned this month that “Republicans should be concerned because President Donald Trump is currently under performing in the districts, “according to GOP website

“It’s a combination of smoothing out departures in the suburbs and squeezing out rural areas,” said John Selleck, who ran Romney’s 2012 Michigan campaign. “But can it make up for lost suburban votes elsewhere?”

That was his formula for winning Ohio four years ago. He has received the highest or second highest percentage of Republican votes of any candidate since 1980 in 60 of Ohio’s 88 counties, according to state voting data compiled by Mike Dawson, a public policy consultant and creator of .

While GOP strategists say Trump can offset suburban losses with new voters, Marquette University polling director Charles Franklin sees no evidence in research plotting Trump’s support this year to suggest new voters are choosing him.

“It definitely needs to step it up and keep what the campaign is talking about, a big increase in Trump voter turnout in regions other than the suburbs,” Franklin said. “It’s not in the polls now.”


Beaumont reported from Des Moines, Iowa. Associated Press writer Marc Levy of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania contributed to this report.


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