Trump conviction gives some Republicans pause in key Pennsylvania county

By Nathan Layne

BANGOR, Pennsylvania (Reuters) – Bronwen Brown, a registered Republican in a bellwether Pennsylvania county, was ready to vote for Donald Trump again in November despite long-held reservations about his character. His conviction by a New York jury has given her pause.

“He’s been found guilty on all 34 counts. Do I want to go with that? Probably not,” the 72-year-old former opera singer told Reuters minutes after Trump became the first former U.S. president convicted of a crime.

“I may be moving over to Biden,” she said, referring to President Joe Biden, Trump’s Democratic opponent in the Nov. 5 election.

Brown is a resident of Bangor, a borough in Northampton County, a mostly rural and white region of 320,000 people which over the decades has become a bellwether of presidential winners in Pennsylvania, a battleground state, and nationwide.

Reuters spoke with 22 women across the county this week, including a dozen Republican-leaning voters and 10 who favor Democrats, to gauge how they were responding to the trial.

Public opinion polling has indicated that women were more likely than men to be swayed by the case, in which Trump was found guilty of falsifying documents to cover up a payment to silence a porn star about an alleged affair prior to the 2016 election – a liaison that Trump denies.

Brown was one of two Republican-leaning women interviewed who said a conviction would make them hesitant to support Trump.

The other 10 described the trial as a political witch hunt and said they would back Trump no matter what happened in court.

Trump faces three other criminal trials, including two related to his alleged efforts to overturn his 2020 election defeat, although they are unlikely to go to trial before the November vote.

But in a contest shaping up to be very close in Pennsylvania and a handful of other swing states that decide U.S. elections, the loss of even a small number of voters like Brown could be the difference between victory and defeat.

According to an analysis of Reuters/Ipsos polls earlier this year, 57% of respondents who planned to vote for Trump said they would do so even if he were convicted of a felony. About 13% of his supporters said they would not vote for him in that case and 29% said they weren’t sure.

While a guilty verdict was partly baked into expectations for the race, it still poses some risk for the Trump campaign, according to Chris Nicholas, a Republican strategist in Pennsylvania.

“In swing states – Pennsylvania, Michigan, perhaps a few others – if a couple of percent move one way or the other, that can be determinative,” he said, adding that some Republicans may now “leave the ballot blank for president or vote for Biden.”

STICKING WITH TRUMP

Opinion surveys suggest Pennsylvania will be close. Polls aggregated by the website FiveThirtyEight show Trump leading Biden in the state 42.9% to 40.8%, with independent candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr at 8% support.

If history is a guide, the candidate who wins Northampton will also likely win the state.

Since 1924, the victor in Northampton County has won Pennsylvania in all but two elections (1932, 1948), and on all but three occasions (1968, 2000, 2004) the county’s winner went on to the White House, according to Chris Borick, a political science professor at Muhlenberg College.

Trump carried Northampton by 4 percentage points in 2016 – the first Republican to do so since 1988 – but lost to Biden in 2020 by 1,233 votes, or less than one percentage point.

Fifine Holva, a 65-year-old payroll specialist with a drug manufacturing company, says she will vote for Trump a third time regardless of whether he was convicted, deeming Biden’s policies on immigration and the economy a bigger risk.

“I’m not condoning his actions while he was married by any stretch,” Holva said in an interview two days before the verdict was announced. “I’m voting for his policies. To get this world back to some kind of normalcy.”

Cori Shive, a 44-year-old Trump supporter, said that while she thought hiding a payment to cover up an affair was wrong she was unsure whether Trump was really in the know. She said she could not back Biden and would vote for Trump a third time.

For Brown, breaking from Trump and potentially backing a Democrat is not an easy decision. She said she worries about illegal immigration and the country’s general direction under Biden.

But she also said the conduct at issue in Trump’s conviction reinforced her concerns about his character, despite his insistence he was innocent of the charges.

“He’s been found guilty in all of this and maybe it’s his time to learn,” she said. “He’s never learned to lose.”

(Reporting by Nathan Layne in Northampton County, Pennsylvania, Editing by Ross Colvin and Kieran Murray)


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