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Focus group: Pennsylvania swing voters aren't ditching Trump in 2020

Illustration of a "Pennsylvania welcomes you" road sign wearing a MAGA hat
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

ERIE, Pa. — A small group of voters we spoke to here, who had switched from Barack Obama to Donald Trump, are sticking with Trump in 2020 — unlike other swing voters who are getting tired of him.

Why it matters: Their loyalty is a wakeup call to all 2020 Democrats, but especially Joe Biden, since he's banking heavily on his ability to win the state.

  • That was the main takeaway from the latest Engagious/FPG focus group I watched here last week, which included eight Obama/Trump voters.

The big picture: Pennsylvania was crucial to Trump's victory in 2016, and it's a key state Democrats are hoping to win back in 2020. These swing voters show the importance of Democratic candidates breaking through in rural areas like Erie if they want to replace Trump.

What they're saying:

  • Tara Biddle, a 37-year-old kindergarten teacher, said although she's not completely happy with Trump, she'd only switch candidates if they picked up where he left off.
  • "I would be willing to vote for someone other than Trump who would continue the initiatives he's started" with the economy, tariffs and immigration, she said.
  • Others said Trump should be able to serve two full terms. "When I changed my vote I gave him eight years," said 62-year-old David R.
  • “He’s the best looking food on the buffet right now," said 28-year-old Matt G. about Trump compared to all the Democrats running for president.

They didn't offer much criticism. One man, 52-year-old Tim G., offered: "The only thing I would say, I'd like someone to get his Twitter account away."

  • The rest of the group agreed, but no one was ready to dump Trump.
  • They're not disappointed that he hasn't accomplished more: “The swamp might’ve been a little tougher than he thought it was,” said Vince K.
  • And their reaction to the Mueller report and the congressional investigations? A big yawn.
  • “You could investigate every president; they’re all shady," said Jessica G. "Let’s just move on and let him do his job.”

Between the lines: These swing voters offered words like "assertive," "negotiator," "powerful," and "Christian" when asked for the most important characteristics they're looking for in a leader.

  • Those are also things many of them said describe Trump.

The bottom line: Trump won Erie by less than 1 percentage point, but some of his most crucial supporters aren't giving up on him yet — so don't count him out to win Pennsylvania again.

Go deeper:

Editor's note: This piece was clarified to emphasize the size of the focus group.