In 2016, Tina Jordan, 55, declared herself “completely against” Donald Trump’s candidacy.
She voted for Hillary Clinton despite being a registered Democrat in Pennsylvania, a vital swing state that swung for Mr. Trump that year and gave him the presidency.
However, in 2020, Ms. Jordan had a change of heart and supported Mr. Trump because, as she said, his administration coincided with “the best I’ve been in a long time, financially.”
Two years into Joe Biden’s presidency, Ms. Jordan said she didn’t believe he was “in touch with small company owners” like herself, and that she would “probably vote for Trump again” if he ran in 2024.
The key state in this year’s midterm elections is Pennsylvania, where Democrats are vying for control of the governor’s office and a seat in the US Senate while against a candidate who supports Mr. Trump’s bogus assertion that the 2020 election was rigged.
Mr. Biden has long bragged about his middle-class Pennsylvania upbringing and made his connections to the state a cornerstone of his political identity. He has also bragged about the state’s economic performance.
Earlier this month, he stated at a speech in Philadelphia that “today, America’s economy is quicker, stronger than any other advanced nation in the world.”
In small-town Pennsylvania, though, meaningful economic transformation appears to be far off despite Washington’s assurances. For Democrats, this divide might be problematic.
Insiders have cautioned that voters must believe the economy is recovering if Democrats are to avoid suffering significant losses in the next midterm elections. The party has taken the brunt of the ire of Americans over the skyrocketing inflation.
Democrats are anticipated to lose the majority they currently hold in at least one chamber of Congress, despite the president’s party scoring policy victories in the last few weeks of the summer by passing long-awaited climate legislation that, they claim, also addresses inflation and announcing student loan debt relief for millions.
Voters like Ms. Jordan, who told BBC News that rising prices had decreased her profits, don’t yet see the benefits of such legislative victories.
Does the US have a recession?
The cancellation of Biden’s college loans: Is it just?
Voters in Pennsylvania shared Ms. Jordan’s worries about her financial security; both Biden and Trump supporters were disenchanted with Washington’s decision-makers and worried about the high cost of living.
According to Mustafa Rashed, a Democratic strategist from the Philadelphia region, “You got a lot of people in Pennsylvania that are frightened about what’s right in front of them.” “Voting participation is more difficult to increase. With your financial concerns, you are vying for their attention.”
Ground-level effects of Washington victory are little.
Late in August, Vice President Biden declared that he would forgive $10,000 or $20,000 in federal student loans for borrowers whose income was below a certain level. Millions of people, especially low- and middle-income households, would benefit from the action, according to the White House.
The Inflation Reduction Act was passed by Democrats around the same time; despite the name suggesting that Democrats were addressing inflation, the bill actually invested vast sums of money in climate change initiatives, increased taxes on the wealthiest Americans, and helped lower prescription drug costs for seniors who use the government’s Medicare program. At a White House celebration on September 13, Vice President Biden declared that the law will “lower prices for families and helped curb inflation at the family table.”
Gas prices, a political headache for Mr. Biden, are gradually declining. The party is celebrating their triumph, thinking they may do better than predicted in the polls.
Despite the hopefulness, the Consumer Price Index shows that prices in August were 8.3 percent higher than they were at the same time last year.
Republicans have attacked Democrats in municipal elections on inflation and the price of basics in an effort to place the burden for a complicated economic problem on the party in power. According to polling, Americans prefer Republicans to Democrats when it comes to handling economic difficulties. A Politico/Morning Consult poll conducted from September 16 to 18 indicated that 16 percent of registered voters (or 46 percent of them) trusted Democrats more than they did Republicans in Congress on the economy.
The economy is at the heart of Dr. Mehmet Oz’s case as the Republican candidate for US Senate in Pennsylvania. His assertion that Mr. Biden’s “Everything has become more expensive because to careless spending… We need to abandon Biden’s failing plan and concentrate on reviving the American economy as soon as possible.”
Conservative talking points have already found an audience with people like Ms. Jordan, who BBC News encountered as she was hawking spices and culinary supplies at the Westmoreland County Labor Day craft fair.
“Purchases by consumers have decreased. Prices rise. Shipping lowers earnings, “Added Ms. Jordan. “I eventually lose money.”
She firmly felt that she would be eligible for Mr. Biden’s plan to forgive student loans, and that the additional funds would enable her to live more comfortably. She sensed the price of petrol dropping. She no longer felt like she was on an upward trajectory, however, as a result of the generally greater cost of living.
Up to this point, Ms. Jordan said that “every year we do better than previous year.” But for her company, this year had been the worst ever.
Raheem Armitage, a 32-year-old nursing assistant in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, was experiencing similar financial hardships 230 miles to the northeast.
Because he is a Democrat as well, Mr. Armitage supported Mr. Biden in 2020 and said the president had “done a lot of good.”
But Mr. Armitage claimed that because of inflation and a wave of new, wealthy neighbors who moved to the region during the epidemic, rents in his neighborhood had skyrocketed. He recounted how, just a few years ago, two-bedroom apartments in Wilkes-Barre could be had for around $800. Now, he claimed, he pays $1,050 for a two-bedroom apartment, which is about equal to one of his biweekly paychecks.
His monthly pay is consumed by healthcare to the tune of 10%. Even when inflation drove up the cost of necessities, he had not received a wage increase in two years. He joined a dozen other Service Employees International Union (SEIU) members in demonstrating for improved wages and benefits throughout the first weekend of September.
“Because gas costs are so high, they fluctuate. Do these occupations eventually start paying more, too? “Inquired Mr. Armitage. It’s upsetting and depressing.
Although Mr. Armitage was politically active as a union member, he was not yet aware of the governor and US Senate campaigns, for which his party was pleading with him to vote. He spent much too much time worrying about everyday expenses.
Mr. Armitage added, “Every night I wonder how I’m going to make it through the following month.”
Recent polling indicates that since the party’s late-summer policy surge, Democrats’ chances for the midterm elections have strengthened. Since the demise of Roe v. Wade elevated access to abortion as a crucial election-year issue, they have gained support. Surveys conducted in Pennsylvania continually suggest that the Democratic candidates for governor and the US Senate, Josh Shapiro and John Fetterman, are marginally ahead of their respective Republican opponents, Dr. Oz and Doug Mastriano.
Tracking Trump’s ‘unprecedented’ endorsement spree The pro-Trump candidates’ resounding victory in New Hampshire
It won’t be a landslide, Mr. Mustafa said.
The outcome will be decided by voters like Ms. Jordan and Mr. Armitage.