Washington – Amanda Garunovsky torn. The Republican activist from a suburb of Cleveland supports President Donald Trump’s policies and fears her actions will be destroyed if Democratic candidate Joe Biden is elected.
But she personally detested Trump, leaving her on the fence about who would vote.
It was a “moral dilemma”, Garunovsky said as she walked home one last evening after pouring a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. “It would be easy for him to win my vote if he could just be a decent human being,” he said earlier during a focus group session.
Yarunovsky is part of a small but potentially significant group of voters who say they are still really hesitant less than three weeks before the November 3 election. They have been mocked for being unaware or lying by those who cannot understand are still hesitant, but conversations with a sample of these voters reveal the complex tug of war.
Many, like Yaronovsky, are old Republicans grappling with what they see as a choice between poor candidates: a Democrat whose politics cannot stand, and a Republican preoccupation whose character revolts. Some voted for the third-party candidates in 2016 because their options were turned down so much – Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton – and they may do so again.
While polls show that there are far fewer irregular voters this year than the unusually high number in 2016, both the Trump and Biden campaigns believe they can still win significant numbers.
These people include John Wilton, 40, a Presbyterian pastor from Winfield, Kansas, who has spent most of his career moving from one parish to another. He said his political views were shaped in part by witnessing how trade deals had damaged once-vibrant manufacturing societies and the livelihoods of worshipers, as well as by his “pro-Second Amendment” views.
Wilton said Biden’s support for tighter arms restrictions was upset. But he also postponed bullying Trump, insulting his opponents on Twitter, and his divisive rhetoric.
On the one hand, Wilton was pleasantly surprised that Trump fulfilled his campaign pledge to bring US troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan, despite thousands remaining.
In 2016, Wilton voted for Clinton, but barely. He circled the block at the polling place before making a decision. This year he hopes a second discussion will give him some clarity.
“I’m still very fickle,” he said.
Cathy Badalamente, 69, who is independent from Lombard, Illinois, is also fighting to vote her again. In 2016, she voted for a third-party candidate after twice supporting Democrat Barack Obama.
“I’m not happy with anyone,” she said of her choices this time, which is especially difficult in a family of enthusiastic Trump supporters who have held back from her hesitation.
She said, “Trust me, my son, my kids are looking at me and thinking, ‘How come you not like Trump ?!” Describing the tough Sunday night dinner as she tries to redirect the conversation from politics to the Cubs.
Badalmenti credits Trump with the booming economy before the pandemic, but is stopped by his sudden reactions, her anxiety about his interactions with world leaders, and she feels he should think more before he speaks and tweets.
Biden also worries her: “I think he’s trying to put in a good effort but at the same time he doesn’t know what he is – he’s just told what’s going on.”
Frank Luntz, a longtime Republican poll maker who has been running focus groups with undecided voters throughout the election, including Thursday night that included Garonowski, is seen as a common mess of many undecided.
He said, “They judge two completely different traits and cannot determine which is more important to them.” They don’t like Trump as a person, but they don’t feel bad about his administration or his policies. They really like Joe Biden as a person, but they are very concerned about what he would do if elected. So they cannot know which is more important to them. “
With two historically unpopular candidates, the 2016 race produced unusually large numbers of voters – double numbers on the eve of the election – who told respondents they were either reluctant or planning to vote for third-party candidates. Many of these voters rallied around Trump in the final weeks of the campaign, helping him secure his unexpected victory.
Opinion polls indicate that there are far fewer unlikely voters this time, but both campaigns believe they have the advantage in an election where every vote can count.
“Frankly, I like our chances with them because President Trump has achieved results,” said Nick Trainer, Trump’s director of battlefield strategy. He said that just as in 2016, those who remain undecided tend to be more right-wing and support conservative policies such as low taxes and a strong military.
The Biden campaign, which leads in polls nationally and in a number of conflicting states, expresses similar optimism and argues that those who are historically unresolved are detached from the rival.
Becca Siegel, chief campaign analytics officer, said having too few undecided voters to act “is a problem if your candidate isn’t up front.” She adds that the campaign’s focus on unity and rapprochement between the country is “very convincing for this group.”
The Biden campaign hopes to win people like Jaronowski, a mentoring consultant who hails from a family of Republicans for life but who ended up voting for Clinton in 2016.
Garonowski, 37, who lives in Independence, Ohio, said she ended up supporting Clinton. Garunovsky said she was shocked by Trump, who she said she hates “with the fire of thousands of suns.” But it was tough nonetheless.
This year, despite her opposition to democratic politics, she deeply respects Biden, whom she describes as “a very good man.”
But she and her husband own a company to buy consumer debt and fear President Biden will cancel that debt, which stands at tens of millions of dollars.
“Voting in Biden, this is very scary personally,” she said, adding that the decision would be much easier if you did not think he was a good person.
Others do their own calculations.
Sam Heller, 35, who lives in Fayetteville, northwest Arkansas, voted for third-party candidate Gary Johnson in 2016.
This time, he said, it is up to either Donald Trump, or Joe Jorgensen, the liberal candidate, or perhaps not to vote in the presidential election and vote for other candidates. Heller, a trucking dispatcher, has written off Biden, convinced that the Democrat will raise taxes and take a more intrusive approach to foreign policy, he said, “It doesn’t help with all the new kind of shady scandals that have emerged.”
Hillier said he aligns closely with Jorgensen on most cases, but refuses to support the candidate for abortion rights.
He said that living in a strong republic gives him more freedom than if he were living in a battlefield state whose electoral votes are ready for criticism, in which case he will vote for Trump without hesitation in an attempt to stop Biden.
For now, he said, “I go back and forth maybe twice a day.”
Tracy Stewart, 49, of Richmond, Virginia, is sure that Biden’s victory will lead to more government restrictions in the fight against the Coronavirus and lead to unnecessary economic suffering.
Stewart, a loyal Republican elector, said that while Trump had “done nothing remarkable” in his first term, he also “has not made the country worse.”
But Stewart’s ballot is still vacant on her home office.
Her sometimes crying conversations with a friend she’d known since the third grade were off a bit.
Her friend raises concerns about Trump’s embrace of the law, an unfounded conspiracy theory, and argues that white supremacy is on the rise under the president.
“If I voted for Biden it wouldn’t be mine, it would be my friend,” said Stewart, who works for a helicopter management company.
I mentioned Madani from Chicago.
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