Tue. Jul 23rd, 2024

A key swing group is up for grabs in battleground Pennsylvania: Nikki Haley’s voters

By 37ci3 Jun25,2024

ERIE, Pa. – Richard Speicher and Mary Gensheimer are lifelong Republicans and lifelong residents of Erie County. Until recently, the yard sign on the front lawn of their suburban home demonstrated the political homelessness they felt in their party and community.

The couple had put up a sign that said, “Republican Voters Against Trump,” only to find it missing when they returned from dinner one evening. Speicher and Gensheimer say they aren’t sure if it was a prank or a neighbor texting them about their political views. Regardless, they decided to send their message in the Pennsylvania primary this spring by voting for Nikki Haley — even though she dropped out of the race a few weeks ago.

“Trump is not a representative candidate of the Republican Party. She may be who they represent now, but as lifelong Republicans, we both come from very different traditions,” Speicher said. “The only choice available was Nikki Haley.”

“I think the hope was that enough people expressing their displeasure with the candidate would send some kind of message even though he’s not in the race,” Gensheimer added.

The pair represent a critical bloc of voters — in this key battleground state and across the country — poised to advance in what is expected to be an extremely competitive general election. While many of those voters will ultimately come home and support the GOP ticket, others will support President Joe Biden or cast another protest vote in November.

Six weeks after dropping out, Haley won almost 20% of the vote in Erie County in Pennsylvania’s April presidential primary. That’s a warning sign for former President Donald Trump, given Erie’s buzz-saw status: The county has voted for the state winner and the president overall in the last four elections.

In a state where Trump won by 44,000 votes in 2016 and Biden by 80,000 in 2020, Haley received 16.4% of the vote, a total of almost 159,000 votes.

Since then, Haley said He will vote for Trump in November. But not all of his supporters are ready to go that far.

“I am disappointed. I was hoping she would hold on,” said Kurt, an Erie voter who voted for Haley in the primary and asked NBC News not to use his last name to avoid backlash from his neighbors.

“I can’t imagine a scenario where I would vote for President Trump,” he said. “For me, it’s really character issues. I think it’s his unstable decision-making style, leadership style. I don’t think he represents traditional Republican or conservative values ​​in many policy matters. It’s really more about him than traditional principles.”

“My vote right now is probably going to be between Biden and the protest vote,” said Kurt, who voted for Biden in 2020.

Opportunity for Biden

The Biden campaign is expanding its reach with voters like Kurt in key battleground states. It poured money into ads in which Trump was quoted as saying he’s “not sure we need a lot of Haley supporters.”

“Republican people who voted for Haley are interested in voting for Biden. “We have very important things to talk about,” Biden’s Pennsylvania campaign adviser told NBC News. we can. unite us, don’t let some reluctant dictator throw it all away.”

The campaign is also building momentum, a Biden official said Austin Weatherford’s latest hireAs the Republican national operations director, former chief of staff to Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., is planning an outreach program targeting GOP voters as the general election campaign heats up.

In addition to paid staff, the campaign is also signaling a grassroots effort to sway Republican voters to Biden, enlisting the help of groups like the Haley Voters Task Force.

“We’re going to reach out to these voters directly, so to speak, early and often, and give them the messages that we think will get them through this last hurdle,” Haley, a Voter Task Force official, told NBC News. “We are not trying to make them democrats. As much as they have to say, the things I don’t like about Donald Trump and the things that led me to vote against him in the Republican primary are very important to me. See voting for the only practical alternative.”

Looking for a third option

But for Erie County voter Dave Langdon, who supported Trump in 2016 and Biden in 2020, “nothing” will make him vote for either candidate again in 2024. He currently plans to write in Haley in the November newsletter.

“I assumed that Biden would be more moderate than he was. But when he took office, he was very left-wing,” said Langdon. “And actually, I was pleased with what Trump did. I was satisfied with his policy. It’s just the stupidity that goes along with it.”

Langdon said he believes many of his Trump-skeptic neighbors will eventually vote for him, citing inflation and immigration as reasons.

“There are a lot of people who don’t like Trump, but they’re on the right and they should vote for Biden because they’re not going to vote for him,” he said.

Dan, who spoke to NBC News at an Erie diner and declined to give his last name for fear of a similar backlash, is one of those voters. He supported Haley in the primary, but has already refused to vote for Trump this fall, saying he couldn’t convince himself to vote Democratic.

“I voted for Haley because I’m sick of the chaos. But as a Republican, I cannot vote for Biden. I trust Trump’s policy more,” he said.

Trump’s campaign hopes to attract more voters like him.

“Biden’s team is focused on the process because Crooked Joe is weak, failed and dishonest. The American people are begging him to focus on strengthening the economy, cutting spending, closing borders, and unleashing American energy. That’s why they will elect President Donald J. Trump in November,” a campaign official told NBC News.

Still, Jeffrey Bloodworth, a local political scientist at Gannon University, said there was a broader shift among voters in both Pennsylvania and other key states. While Democrats have gained white suburban and college-educated voters under Trump, the GOP has rallied with white working-class voters as well as Black and Latino voters.

“What Donald Trump has bequeathed to the Republican Party is a rethinking of what it means to be a conservative, to be a Republican. And people have to lose their long-lived personal identities,” he adds. “This is not your mom or dad’s Republican Party, and some people don’t feel at home anymore.”

This coalition shift is evident among voters like Gensheimer, who says women in his social group are “silent Biden voters.”

“We don’t want to talk about it, but we’re all going to vote for Joe Biden,” he said. “I don’t think women like being grabbed by p——-. And speaking of it, there will be hell to pay if one of our husbands steps up and does this to one of us. And we had a president who made all this a joke. And so there are a lot of women who might not say it publicly or discuss it because it might get heated, but they’re going to vote for Joe Biden.

“The Republican Party as I knew it is dead,” Speicher said. “I don’t know where to go next.”

They know what to do about their missing marks, though.

“We’re going to get a Biden sign,” Speicher said.

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By 37ci3

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