When President Donald Trump narrowly won Pennsylvania's 20 electoral votes in 2016, he did so with help of many white women — about half of whom voted for him in the Keystone State four years ago. But reporter Julia Terruso, in an article published by the Philadelphia Inquirer on October 19, stresses that Trump is struggling with that demographic in Pennsylvania in 2020.
"Only 37% of white women in the state support him, according to a Quinnipiac survey earlier this month — a finding similar to other polls in Pennsylvania and other battleground states," Terruso explains. "If that big shift holds, it could help deliver Pennsylvania — and the White House — to Democratic candidate Joe Biden."
It isn't hard to understand why Pennsylvania could make or break Trump's chances of winning a second term. If former Vice President Biden, on November 3, wins every state that 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton won four years ago but flips Michigan and Wisconsin, Trump can't afford to lose Pennsylvania. In that scenario, Trump's path to victory would have to include Pennsylvania as well as the Sun Belt states in which Biden is competitive — a list that includes Arizona, Florida and Georgia.
Winning every state that Clinton carried and flipping Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania woud get Biden to 270 electoral votes. Trump knows that, which is why he has been campaigning so aggressively in the Keystone State. But according to Terruso, Trump has made things more difficult for himself by alienating so many of Pennsylvania's white women.
"Women (in Pennsylvania) have been getting involved with local Democratic Party politics even in more rural areas since his election, injecting energy into places where the party didn't have much visibility," Terruso observes. "These are still overwhelmingly Republican areas where Trump will almost certainly win, but where women say they can drive down his margins of victory. And that, combined with Trump's political collapse with suburban voters and the more recent erosion of his support among older voters, could prove politically fatal in a state that is seen as likely to decide who wins the White House."
Trump recently held a rally in Johnstown, which is in Central Pennsylvania. Democratic strategist James Carville famously described Central Pennsylvania as "Alabama in the middle" of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, and Trump is still popular among white men in that part of the state. But a heavy turnout from pro-Biden African-American women in densely populated Philadelphia — combined with a lot of votes from white women in different parts of Pennsylvania — could be bad news for Trump.
One of the white female voters the Inquirer interviewed was 54-year-old Tina McHugh, who lives in rural Carbon County in Northwestern Pennsylvania. Discussing Trump, McHugh told the Inquirer, "Oh my God, I really have to tell you: I really, really despise him. And I look at him now as a character, not a president."
Another resident of Northwestern Pennsylvania the Inquirer interviewed was 58-year-old Elaine Caruso, who voted for Trump in 2016 but is not supporting him this time.
Caruso told the Inquirer, "I've had to sit back with myself and think: 'OK, you're a bright woman. What made you vote for him? What words did you hear?' He's a really good con, and some people will let him con them. But that's the only base he's got left — because I really think he alienated everybody else."