Report: In Pa. and ‘Blue Wall’ states, healthcare, the economy dominate | Tuesday Morning Coffee

Democratic presidential candidate, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, of Massachusetts, talks about healthcare on the stump (WilkiMedia Commons)

Good Tuesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

A year out from the 2020 presidential election, a poll of Democratic ‘Blue Wall’ voters in the states that helped put President Donald Trump in the White House in 2016 finds those voters are motivated, focused on the economy and healthcare, and split between ex-Veep Joe Biden and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., as their pick for the Democratic nominee.

This joint effort between the Kaiser Family Foundation and the nonpartisan Cook Political Report in Washington D.C., sampled the opinions of 3,222 voters in four states: Michigan (767 voters), Minnesota (958 voters), Pennsylvania (752 voters), and Wisconsin (745 voters).

Trump carried Pennsylvania by not even a percentage point in 2016, edging Democrat Hillary Clinton by 44,000 votes though state polls tended to show the Democratic nominee with a wider polling margin. The new poll’s authors are pretty clear in their intention to avoid that mistake this time around.

Read on for topline results.

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., is a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate and a proponent of Medicare for All

Despite some clear partisan divisions in these battleground states, the new KFF/Cook poll finds there are still plenty of undecideds and a some “persuadable” voters in these key states.

“A large share of voters – about four in ten (41 percent) – say they have not yet made up their minds about who they plan to vote for in November 2020,” the polling report concludes. “These ‘swing voters’ either report being undecided about their vote in 2020 or are leaning towards a candidate but haven’t made up their minds yet. With a substantial number of votes still up for grabs, this analysis looks in-depth at this group of voters to explore the policy issues that could swing these voters to vote for either President Donald Trump or the Democratic nominee.”

(KFF/Cook Report)

With that in mind, it will not shock you to learn that Trump looms large in voters’ minds, for good or for ill:

“When asked to offer in their own words what one thing will motivate them to vote in the 2020 presidential election, nearly three times as many voters offer responses related to defeating President Trump (21 percent) as offer responses related to re-electing him or not wanting a Democrat to be elected (8 percent),” the polling report reads. Defeating President Trump was offered as the top motivation to vote in 2020 by four in ten Democratic voters (39 percent) while responses related to re-electing President Trump/not wanting a Democrat were offered by 21 percent of Republican voters. One-fifth of independent voters offered responses related to defeating President Trump while fewer (7 percent) of independent voters offered responses related to re-electing President Trump. Overall, one-fourth (23 percent) of voters offer issues such as health care, the economy, and immigration, as their motivation for voting in the 2020 presidential election.”

President Donald Trump (Capital-Star file)

And while impeachment is set to take center stage on Capitol Hill this week, voters’ attentions are focused squarely on issues that matter to them the most: The economy and healthcare:

“Health care and the economy are the top issues for voters leading up to the 2020 presidential election but they are also two issues on which voters give President Trump very different marks. Overall, voters are somewhat positive in their views of how President Trump is handling the economy (-1 percentage points net approval) while a larger share of voters “disapprove” than “approve” of the way President Trump is handling health care (-21 percentage points net approval). Health care is one of the only issues in which President Trump’s approval is lower than his overall job approval (-18 percentage points). President Trump also has low approval ratings (-20 percentage points) on the way he is handling foreign policy– an issue of increasing importance among voters in these states,” pollsters concluded.

So … about that enthusiasm we mentioned up above:

“Over six in ten Democratic voters in Pennsylvania (66 percent), Michigan (65 percent), and Wisconsin (62 percent ) say they are more motivated to vote in next year’s 2020 presidential election than they were in 2016. This is at least 10 percentage points higher than the share of Republican voters in each state saying the same (54 percent in Pennsylvania, 53 percent in Michigan, and 46 percent in Wisconsin).”

But …

“Most Republican voters approve of the way Donald Trump is handling his job as president and large majorities approve of his approach on key national issues including more than nine in ten who approve of the way he is handling the nation’s economy. Most Republican and Republican-leaning voters (73 percent) also say they want President Trump to be the Republican Party’s nominee for the 2020 election while small shares of Trump voters (28 percent) can imagine a scenario in which he enacts a policy, or fails to enact a policy, that would result in them changing their vote choice,” the study concludes.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden rallies with supporters in Philadelphia on Saturday, 5/18/19. (Capital-Star photo by Nick Field)

While younger Democrats may be jazzed about U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif, or South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg, voters in the Blue Wall States, who tend to skew older, are putting their money on Biden and Warren, the KFF/Cook poll finds. That mirrors other Pennsylvania polling as well, which had Biden at the front of the 2020 pack.

“One-fourth of Democratic primary voters in Michigan and Minnesota say they plan to support Sen. Warren during the Democratic primary as do 22 percent of Wisconsin Democratic primary voters. Former Vice President Joe Biden garners 27 percent of support from Pennsylvania Democratic primary voters. Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar also garners support from 15 percent of Minnesota Democratic primary voters,” the report reads.

And while most of those polled don’t see the progressive ideas espoused by the candidates as “deal-breakers,” those same voters have some pretty clear ideas about what they don’t like.

“Most swing voters in these states see bans on fracking, stopping detainments at the U.S. border, and Medicare-for-all as bad ideas,” the report concluded.

“The poll also consistently finds that while Medicare-for-all has played a significant role in the 2020 Democratic primary debates, it is not the top health care issue for Democratic voters,” the report reads.

“Large shares of swing voters in Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin say stopping detainments at the U.S. border for people cross into the country illegally and a national Medicare-for-all plan are ‘bad ideas,'” it concludes. “Swing voters are slightly more divided in their views of a ban on fracking with large shares of Pennsylvania and Wisconsin swing voters saying such a ban is a ‘bad idea’ as do a slim majority in Michigan and half of Minnesota swing voters.”

Once again, the results here are a reminder that, while national polls are one snapshot of the presidential contest, it’s the battleground states where the race will be truly decided.

WikiMedia Commons

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And now you’re up to date.

An award-winning political journalist with more than 25 years' experience in the news business, John L. Micek is The Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. Before joining The Capital-Star, Micek spent six years as Opinion Editor at PennLive/The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa., where he helped shape and lead a multiple-award-winning Opinion section for one of Pennsylvania's most-visited news websites. Prior to that, he spent 13 years covering Pennsylvania government and politics for The Morning Call of Allentown, Pa. His career has also included stints covering Congress, Chicago City Hall and more municipal meetings than he could ever count, Micek contributes regular analysis and commentary to a host of broadcast outlets, including CTV-News in Canada and talkRadio in London, U.K., as well as "Face the State" on CBS-21 in Harrisburg, Pa.; "Pennsylvania Newsmakers" on WGAL-8 in Lancaster, Pa., and the Pennsylvania Cable Network. His weekly column on American politics is syndicated nationwide to more than 800 newspapers by Cagle Syndicate.