Donald Trump’s 2016 victory was in large part due to his success in rural counties in the rustbelt. A liberal Super PAC is aiming at cutting into his margins in these areas and swing voters in an effort to flip the White House back to the Democrats in 2020.
American Bridge, a liberal Super PAC that describes itself as “the largest research, video tracking, and rapid response organization in Democratic politics” has launched a $50 million effort in four specific states that includes Pennsylvania.
“This is obviously a critical state that Democrats need to win back in 2020, if we’re going to win the presidency,” Jeb Fain, Trump War Room Communications Director at American Bridge 21st Century said to PoliticsPA. “Trump won it largely by running up the margins with white rural voters in Pennsylvania in 2016 and there is a real opportunity to take him on and cut his margins with his core voters in Pennsylvania.”
The super PAC plans to release “hyperlocal” television, radio, and digital ads in the coming weeks featuring individuals in this demographic who voted for Trump in 2016, but plan on voting against him in 2020. The group also has outreach staff on the ground in Pennsylvania already.
A spokesperson for American Bridge said that the Pennsylvania effort started out with focusing on the three counties that voted for President Obama then flipped to Trump in 2016, but has expanded into including a total of 22 counties in the state that voted for Trump in the previous election, although the group is likely to add more.
The Pennsylvania counties being targeted thus far include: Erie, Luzerne, Northampton, Greene, Fayette, Cambria, Elk, Somerset, Armstrong, Juniata, Clearfield, Jefferson, Bedford, Fulton, Cameron, Indiana, Clinton, Clarion, Huntingdon, Potter, Sullivan, and Northumberland.
Luzerne County, which was one of the counties that flipped from Obama to Trump in 2016, had the largest overall vote total in the counties targeted by American Bridge for Trump in 2016 with him receiving 77,000 votes there. Northampton County, which also flipped from Obama to Trump in 2016, had the highest vote total for Clinton for their target counties with the Democratic nominee receiving over 65,000 votes in 2016. Erie County, the third county that flipped from Obama to Trump in 2016, was the tightest margin between the 2 candidates in the previous election with Trump winning it by just 2%, while the county with the widest margin in the effort in Fulton County which Trump captured 84% of the vote to Clinton’s 13%.
The Hill reports that Trump’s approval rating in rural areas of Pennsylvania is 60% according to a Change Research survey released two weeks ago by two Democratic groups.
A spokesperson from American Bridge said they realize winning over all of these Trump voters is not realistic, but pointed to Gov. Tom Wolf’s (D-PA) 2018 landslide victory over GOP state Sen. Scott Wagner as proof that a Democrat can win the state in the upcoming election. The issues they believe these voters who are expecting to abandon Trump in 2020 care most about include healthcare, the economy, and other issues.
“It’s safe to say that health care, the economy, and other kitchen-table issues are the big themes, but our paid media is going to be foremost informed by what we’ve heard and continue to hear from Trump defectors in Pennsylvania and our other target states,” Fain said. “These are the folks whose voices we’re going to elevate on TV, radio, and digital. They’re the ones who can who can speak in a very personal, very relatable way to friends, neighbors, and voters like them about how the president’s failures hurt them and their communities.”
The Pennsylvania Republican Party feels confident that these rural voters will vote for Trump once again in 2020.
“That’s a lot to spend, but good luck trying to convince rural Pennsylvanians they aren’t seeing what President Trump has done to bring back jobs and grow the economy for the working class,” Vonne Andring, Senior Advisor for the PAGOP, said to PoliticsPA in a statement. “The President promised, he delivered, and rural Pennsylvanians see it.”
Various liberal groups have already committed to helping flip Pennsylvania in 2020 already as well. For Our Future, the nation’s “largest super PAC devoted to grassroots Democratic turnout,” announced in June it’s plan to spend $80-$90 million focusing on seven specific states that includes Pennsylvania. Priorities USA, a Democratic super PAC, announced in February that it has launched a $100 million program focusing on four specific states that includes Pennsylvania.