Disinterested or alienated Democrats in Michigan were part of a massive drop in votes that led to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 defeat in the key Midwest state — and the Joe Biden campaign is trying to get them back.
The Democratic drop-off in 2016 spanned the whole state, but it was especially pronounced in reliably Democratic Genesee County, about an hour’s drive north of Detroit — and the state’s fifth most populous county, NBC News reported.
Clinton carried the county in 2016 but with 20% fewer votes than President Barack Obama won in 2012. And voter turnout was dismal in Flint, a majority-Black, majority-Democratic city where voters appeared uninspired by Clinton, NBC News reported.
President Donald Trump won over voters in the more politically independent suburban and rural parts of the county — and his support there remains strong, NBC News reported.
David Martin, the Republican county commissioner, said many voters he meets want to know whether he supports the president like they do.
“For so long, their identity, their grandfathers, their fathers, their selves, they were blue-collar labor, and they were voting Democrat,” said Martin, who is backing Trump.
“Now there’s a shift in voting for values,” he said, naming gun rights, property rights, and “traditional marriage,” among other issues. “I think they went with Trump because they were a little scared of how fast progressives were moving.”
Barb Proffer, a voter who comes from generations of Democrats, told NBC News she now views Democrats as “corrupt” and plans to vote only for Republicans.
“I like a man that speaks the truth and doesn’t fluff it up,” she told the news outlet.
But other Trump supporters are making a different choice. Gerri Arndt, 56, of nearby Davison, voted for Obama twice before backing Trump in 2016.
“I thought he was a very good businessman and would stand up for what was right,” she told NBC News, but says she does not like his behavior — “his temper tantrums, him doing things to get even with other people, not willing to listen to anybody.”
“I think he’ll listen,” she said of Biden. “Trump never listened.”
David McKarnen, 79, a retired autoworker and Democrat said people he knows who supported Trump in the last election are evenly split this time — and says a visible increase in Trump signs does not mean more voter support.
“Last time, they were afraid to put a Trump sign in their yard, because they didn’t want to be ridiculed,” McKarnen told NBC News. “This time, they feel emboldened, and they think Trump’s going to win.”
In the mostly Black and poor north side of Flint, many voters say they think Trump is racist and mishandled the COVID-19 pandemic, NBC News reported.
“After we done got our behinds sorely kicked by the president, they say they’re voting for anybody but him,” senior center member Yvonne Gaither, 78, told the news outlet.
Her precinct had the city’s biggest drop-off in Democratic votes from 2012 to 2016. Though Clinton won the precinct, the 835 votes was paltry compared with the 1,101 votes Obama won in 2012.
“My grandson and a lot of his friends wanted uncle Bernie,” said Geraldine Wilburn, 79, referring to Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. “I told him that he should vote because that was his duty as a citizen, but he said he couldn’t vote for Hillary and wasn’t going to vote for Trump.”
“Him and all his homies are voting because they don’t want four more years of Trump,” she told the news outlet.
Bryant Nolden, a Democratic county commissioner, believes there is more more enthusiasm about voting this year compared with 2016, when he said he had heard a lot of cynicism about politicians, especially in the wake of the Flint water crisis.
“There was a lot of voter distrust of the government,” Nolden told NBC News. “It was the government that actually poisoned the residents of Flint.”
But the GOP is fired up too. Trump campaign spokeswoman Samantha Zager said in a statement Trump’s 2016 victory had “sparked a realignment” of American voters who would come out again for the president.
“We know which voters to contact with the right message to turn them out to vote for President Trump this November,” she said.
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