“King” for some in Pennsylvania, but will it help GOP?

MONONGAHELA, Pa. (AP) – The Trump Pence sign still hangs on the older building on Main Street in this historic city, a lasting remnant of the campaigning frenzy that shook voters, including many who still believe the former president was untrue Don’t lose 2020 and hope it runs in 2024.

Enthusiasm for Donald Trump’s unique brand of nationalist populism has crept into traditional Democratic strongholds like Monongahela, about 25 miles south of Pittsburgh, where brick facades and a Slovak parish hall line Main Street and church bells mark the hours of the day. Republicans are banking on political nostalgia for the Trump era as they face Democrats in the race for governor, the US Senate and control of Congress this fall in Pennsylvania.

“Trump just came along and filled the empty space,” said Matti Gruzs, who sews old blue jeans into tote bags, placemats and other creations that she sells at the weekly downtown Farmer’s Market. “He is still the king and the kingmaker.”

Against the backdrop of this scenic location, House Republicans recently released their campaign agenda in hopes that their “commitment to America” ​​can draw on the same political sentiment that Trump uses to attract not only Republican, but independent and former Democratic voters Has. But it’s unclear if the support that drove Trump to the White House will be there on Election Day, November 8.

Perhaps even more difficult for the GOP is whether Trump’s false claims of voter fraud will cost the party if people believe the elections are rigged, as the defeated president claims without evidence. Some may simply choose to sit out the election.

“It started out as a low-enthusiasm race,” said Dave Ball, the leader of the Republican Party in Washington County, which includes much of western Pennsylvania.

Ball said enthusiasm had “growth rapidly” — that his number one gauge of voter interest in the election was demand for lawn signs. “We wondered at one point, you know, we’d see some,” he said. “Right now I can’t get my hands on enough.”

But Amy Michalic, who was born and raised in Monongahela and works at the ballot box during the election, said she hears skepticism from some voters, particularly Trump supporters, “who believe my vote doesn’t count.”

Trump’s allegations of fraud are unfounded. Dozens of lawsuits filed by Trump and his supporters have been dismissed or denied by judges across the country, but he continues to question Joe Biden’s victory. Officials in every state have confirmed the accuracy of their elections, and Trump’s then-attorney general Bill Barr said 2020 had not seen voter fraud on a scale that could change the outcome.

Reminding skeptical voters in her hometown of the importance of voting, Michaelic notes that in 2016 no one thought Trump could win. “Look what he did, he took Pennsylvania,” she said.

At the Farmer’s Market this afternoon, voters shared concerns that many people in the United States are expressing this election year – about the high prices of everything, about finding workers and well-paying jobs, about the culture wars.

“Where do you start?” said Michelle DeHosse, who wore an American flag shirt as she helped vendors set up booths.

DeHosse, who runs a bespoke screen printing and embroidery shop on Main Street, said she has been struggling to hire staff since the pandemic. While she said she just can’t afford the $20 an hour and health care benefits that many applicants demand, she understands that many workers need both. “It’s the economy that’s the biggest concern,” she said.

Democrats were few and far between among voters who didn’t seem to have strong feelings about their choice this fall for either of the Senate candidates, Democrat John Fetterman or Trump-backed Republican Mehmet Oz. Several said they were likely to choose the party line.

“I don’t like either of them,” said Carolyn McCuen, 84, a Republican who enjoys the sunset with friends and McDonald’s coffee at a picnic table by the river.

“Me neither,” said another Republican, Sam Reo, 76, a retired mechanical engineer who played oldies from the portable speaker he set out for the group.

Both still want to vote. Support for GOP gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano, standing in front of the US Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, can be seen on the giant signs along the Lincoln Highway, an east-west route through the state.

Mastriano is a “folk hero here,” said Gruzs, who recalled his regular updates aired during the pandemic.

A history buff who homeschooled her kids, Gruzs hasn’t missed a vote since casting her first presidential vote for Ronald Reagan. The same goes for her husband Sam, a plumber. You moved here from Baltimore two decades ago for a better life. Now a grandmother, she spends her days working on her craft and listening to far-right shows – Steve Bannon, Charlie Kirk and more.

She’s not a fan of House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. and is not convinced that he has the tenacity to push the party’s ideas forward. But she attended the event at a nearby manufacturing facility, where lawmakers outlined the GOP agenda. She was encouraged to see far-right Georgia Assemblyman Marjorie Taylor Greene at the event with McCarthy and made sure to shake Greene’s hand.

“If she’s behind him,” she said, and trailed off. “Today it looked like he had enough behind him to push him.”

Trump remains popular, and the sign that hung from the Main Street building from his 2020 campaign was far from the only one still seen in the state two years after that election.

Several voters dismissed the investigation into Trump as nothing more than a “witch hunt” designed to keep him from running for office again, despite the potentially serious charges laid in state and federal investigations. Some voters said they didn’t believe the attack on the Capitol was a riot, despite the violence used by pro-Trump supporters trying to overthrow Biden’s election.

These views contrast with the hard facts of January 6: more than 850 people have been arrested and charged in connection with the uprising, some have been sentenced to long prison terms by courts for their involvement. Hours before the siege, Trump urged a crowd to “fight like hell” for his presidency. Loyalists soon broke into the Capitol, engaged in hand-to-hand combat with the police and interrupted Congress as it confirmed the election results. Five people, including a Trump supporter shot dead by police, died immediately afterwards.

What if Trump runs again?

“I wish he would,” said McCuen, a retired church secretary. “But I don’t know if he will.”

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