Robert Pristas works part-time at a library outside Johnstown and does well for himself investing on the side. He says Joe Biden is “probably a decent guy.” But Pristas, 61, is voting for President Donald Trump because he fears Democrats will raise taxes.
Andy Szekeresh lives 20 miles north of Johnstown in Ebensburg, in the rolling hills of Cambria County. A retired maintenance worker, he supported Trump four years ago but now plans to vote for Biden. “The country wasn’t ready for a lady president like that,” Szekeresh, 71, said of Hillary Clinton.
And Biden? “He’s OK,” Szekeresh said. “It’s just, we need a change and a new president, that’s all.”
That’s hardly a ringing endorsement. But the less-than-hostile attitude expressed by voters like Pristas, and the tepid support from voters like Szekeresh, point to a significant difference between 2016 and 2020: In the rural areas of Pennsylvania where Trump draws his strongest and most resilient support, his opponent this time simply isn’t loathed like last time.
Two polls of Pennsylvania voters last week showed Biden with almost a double-digit lead in the state, fueled partly by his strength in the suburbs. Trump is holding strong in central Pennsylvania. But he has lost some support among rural voters overall in the state, according to a New York Times poll. And both the Times survey and a Washington Post poll found that Trump’s advantage with white voters who didn’t go to college — especially women — has slipped.
I’m not saying misogyny is the only explanation here, but it’s certainly a significant part of the puzzle.