Report shows risk for Dems losing blue-collar voters in Pa., other states | Friday Morning Coffee

‘We cannot elect Democrats up and down the ballot, let alone protect our governing majorities, if we don’t address those losses,’ the report’s author, Richard J. Martin, a Democratic campaign veteran, wrote

October 8, 2021 7:18 am

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf speaking with the press. Governor Tom Wolf visited Pine Grove Furnace State Park in Cumberland County Friday, July 31, 2021 to highlight the importance of outdoor spaces to our well-being during the pandemic and announce a plan for Pennsylvania’s state parks of tomorrow (Commonwealth Media Services photo).

Good Friday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

Democrats in Pennsylvania have long known the path to victory in the Keystone State runs through Philadelphia and its suburbs, Pittsburgh and its blue suburbs, and other reliably Democratic pockets of support around the state.

Gov. Tom WolfU.S. Sen. Bob CaseyAttorney General Josh Shapiro, and other statewide candidates have followed this Blue Highway to victory.

But what about the rural and working-class voters who once formed the backbone of the party? The union voters who defected to President Donald Trump in 2016?

new report warns that the Democrats’ declining performance among those voters poses a long-term threat to their viability, swamping the gains the party made among urban and suburban voters.

“Democrats have been hemorrhaging millions of votes in small and midsized working class counties,” the report’s author, Richard J. Martin, a Democratic campaigns veteran from the key electoral state of Iowa, wrote. “We cannot elect Democrats up and down the ballot, let alone protect our governing majorities, if we don’t address those losses ASAP, and begin to reverse our fortunes in factory towns.”

The report, commissioned by American Family Voices and 21st Century Democrats, a pair of political action committees, the latter founded by former U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat, examines 853 counties in 10 states, including Pennsylvania. It concludes that Democratic vote losses in these counties from 2012 to 2020 swamped by a 2:1 margin the gains Democrats made in big cities and big city suburbs.

“In midsized, working-class towns in these states, Democrats lost major ground. In 2012, these were the most closely contested kinds of counties, and [former President Barack] Obama won them overall by a close net margin of roughly 106,000 votes,” Martin wrote.

“While a net win in these kinds of counties was crucial for Obama’s victory in the battleground states we studied, Democratic performance in the following two elections fell off sharply,” he continued. “Even though [President Joe] Biden did slightly better in these counties than [2016 Democratic nominee] Hillary Clinton did, the Democratic margin change in 2020 went deeply underwater: we lost these kinds of counties by almost 661,000 votes, almost 767,000 votes worse than in 2012.”

(Source: American Family Voices and 21st Century Democrats.)

The report takes into account a number of factors to explain the Democrats’ decline among these voters, including the loss of manufacturing jobs in the two decades between 2001-2020, as well as economic and health outcomes, and demographic data.

“In general, in both the small and midsized counties we studied, the greater the dependence on manufacturing 20 years ago, the harder the loss of manufacturing was felt, which we found was linked to a larger percentage vote shift to the GOP,” the report concludes. ” … Counties with bigger manufacturing job losses shifted more dramatically to Trump. Counties with manufacturing job losses AND healthcare declines shifted even more to the GOP.”

While Democrats focus on the cities and high-end suburbs, the report warns that these working class communities cannot be discounted over misguided beliefs that they’re small, and therefore unworthy, of attention.

“In spite of the inattention they receive from candidates, these factory town counties are not a small part of the electorate,” the report reads.

“In eight of the ten states we studied, and all of the battleground states, they represent over 40 percent of the electorate. In four of the ten, they represent well over half of the electorate, 57 percent or more. In Michigan, they represent 50 percent of the electorate, and in Minnesota, 49 percent,” it concludes.

President Joe Biden speaks at a Mack Trucks assembly plant in Lower Macungie Twp., Pa., on Wednesday, 7/28/21 (Screen Capture)

“This report shines a light on a huge political problem for Democrats, who have misjudged and failed to understand the needs of millions of voters,” John Pouland, of 21st Century Democrats, said in a statement provided to the Capital-Star.

“As we approach the 2022 midterm elections and beyond, it is critical that we reach these working-class towns and manufacturing-heavy regions. To win we must reflect on why we are failing to connect with huge parts of the country, and how progressive policies can meet these families where they are to significantly improve their livelihoods,” Pouland continued. “Whether it is the race for the White House or the down ballot or the local city councilman, Democrats must remain competitive in these counties, and think differently about how to stay viable in each community.”

Pennsylvania State Capitol Building. (Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller.)

Our Stuff.

A western Pennsylvania Republican state representative was in “serious but stable” condition, according to a caucus spokesperson, after getting into a car accident on Wednesday night, Stephen Caruso reports.

newly released congressional report on efforts by former President Donald Trump and his allies to pressure the U.S. Dept. of Justice and overturn the 2020 election prominently highlights U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, R-10th District, a close Trump ally, and who was in the vanguard of lawmakers who objected to certifying President Joe Biden’s victory last November, I report.

The Pennsylvania Legislature was plenty busy this fall. But did it actually get anything done? That depends on whom you askStephen Caruso reports.

The governors of four neighboring states, including Pennsylvania, launched a joint effort Thursday that they say will help the participating states fight gun violence and assist law enforcement entities with gun crime investigations, Cassie Miller reports.

Already under fire for its school mask mandate, the Wolf administration is now accused of “bullying” students with a letter outlining the consequences of failing to comply with a COVID-related quarantine. The Department of Health says the document was taken out of context for “political gain,” Marley Parish reports.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health confirmed 5,819 new cases of COVID-19 in Pennsylvania on Thursday, up from 5,058 new cases on Wednesday, bringing the total number of cases statewide to more than 1.46 million since the start of the pandemic, I also report.

On our Commentary Page this morning: A column from me reflecting on the pandemic, time, and not letting the moments go. The state House and Senate need to work together to rein in prescription drug pricesRobin Stelly of the Pennsylvania Health Access Network, writes. And who says parents know best, veteran journalist Denny Bonavita writes.

En la Estrella-CapitalEl récord de ventas de licores de Pa. en el año fiscal del 2020-21. El asistente del senador de Pa. superior dice que es ´poco probable´que el proyecto de ley de la ley canina avance. Y por Q’HuboSe celebra segundo festival multicultural en Lebanon, Pa.

Former Pa. Lt. Gov. Mike Stack (WikiMedia Commons).

Former Democratic Lt. Gov. Mike Stack has his eye on his old state Senate seat in northeast Philadelphia, Clout reports.

A coalition of Black leaders in Pittsburgh is looking to build a ‘city of peace,’ the Post-Gazette reports.

Eleven of 59 Pennsylvanians charged in the Capitol insurrection have pleaded guilty, and are preparing for their sentencing, PennLive reports.

Allentown City Council has opted against transferring $36,000 from an account used to help the homeless to pay for ornaments for the city’s annual “Lights on the Parkway” holiday celebration, the Morning Call reports.

Here’s what former Democratic Auditor General Eugene DePasquale has said about a 2022 rematch with U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, R-10th District, the York Daily Record reports (paywall).

A group of parents in Luzerne County’s Lake-Lehman School District are planning a rally next week at the district’s football stadium to protest the state’s COVID-19 mask mandate, the Citizens’ Voice reports.

Lawyers on both sides of union boss’ John Dougherty’s federal corruption trial spent Thursday squabbling over who was in charge when Philly Councilmember Bobby Henon was allegedly taking orders, WHYY-FM reports.

A Harrisburg woman who was arrested in January in connection with the Capitol insurrection is now facing formal charges for allegedly stealing U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s, D-Calif., laptop, WITF-FM reports.

Out-of-state donors are fire-hosing cash onto Erie County executive hopeful Tyler Titus’ campaign, GoErie reports. If elected, Titus would be the first transgender individual to hold the post (paywall). explains why red states have limited options to fight the Biden White House’s vaccine rules.

Roll Call updates on the slow progress of the $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package.

Here’s your #Pennsylvania Instagram of the Day:


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What Goes On
The desk is clear. Enjoy the silence.

Gov. Tom Wolf heads to Easton for a 10 a.m. newser highlighting efforts to transform blighted areas.

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
Best wishes go out this morning to Capital-Star Opinion Contributor Dick Polman, and to Keegan Gibson, of Ceisler Media Issue Advocacy, both of whom celebrate today. Congratulations, friends. Enjoy the day.

Heavy Rotation
We’ll got out this week with a tune that absolutely lives up to its title. From Puerto Rico’s The Marias, here’s the lovely — and very quiet — ‘Hush.’

Friday’s Gratuitous Soccer Link
A Saudi takeover of Newcastle United has cast a human rights fog over Tyneside, the Guardian reports.

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek
John L. Micek

A 3-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. An award-winning political reporter, Micek’s career has taken him from small town meetings and Chicago City Hall to Congress and the Pennsylvania Capitol. His weekly column on U.S. politics is syndicated to 800 newspapers nationwide by Cagle Syndicate. He also contributes commentary and analysis to broadcast outlets in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. Micek’s first novel, “Ordinary Angels,” was released in 2019 by Sunbury Press.