These key countries tell the story of America’s changing political landscape
In communities across America, voters are still trying to find their political homes after five tumultuous years in which many questioned the party’s long-standing loyalties or became active in elections for the first time. And they have a long list of challenges in their fields that they rely on leaders to overcome.
That’s why NBC News is launching its County to County series, which will integrate reporters in seven flagship counties throughout the 2022 cycle for regular stories on the evolution of US politics.
From big cities to sprawling suburbs to small rural towns, county to county will regularly check on what voters are talking about and how politicians from both parties hope to win their votes in November 2022. “Meet the Press Reports” presents the series this week on Peacock with field reports from five of the counties.
Lucerne County, Pennsylvania
For nearly 30 years, Luzerne County could be counted on to deliver votes to Democratic presidential candidates. Former President Barack Obama has actively courted voters in the region, a blue-collar stronghold in northeastern Pennsylvania, which he has twice won.
But in 2016, Luzerne was part of a sweeping shift in US politics, going for Donald Trump in double digits. He won it again last year, though he lost the state to Joe Biden, who grew up in nearby Scranton.
Cameron Cox, a self-proclaimed former Blue Dog Democrat, did not vote for Trump. But the last few years have changed his perspective on the place of his politics. Recently he changed his party registration to Republican.
“I will be working with cowboy boots or work boots, fire resistant clothing, being covered in grease,” Cox said. “Go to a Democratic Party event and look around, see if anyone else looks like you. They don’t.”
Delaware County, Ohio
Political and cultural tides are shifting in the opposite direction in wealthy Delaware County, a long-standing Republican stronghold in the Columbus area, where Trump’s portrayal of America under siege by dark forces has failed to resonate with of the rapidly growing population.
“It just became reality TV, you know. It wasn’t about politics,” said Merv Roland, a longtime Republican who re-registered as a Democrat. “It wasn’t about, you know, ideas. It was just about conflict, good TV.”
Democrats have narrowed the gap significantly in recent years: Trump won the county by 16 points in 2016 but only 7 points last year. The GOP county chairman was among those who left him, and his replacement is hoping to bring hesitant Republicans back to the midpoint with a message focused on inflation and Afghanistan.
Anson County, North Carolina
In Anson County, a quiet rural community teeming with churches, politics means giving struggling communities hope that things can still change for the better. It’s almost 50/50 Black and White, voters here are older, and the population has shrunk by 10% since 2010.
Howard McClean, the county school principal, said the number of homeless children has increased and 75 percent of his students live in poverty.
“Past history has shown my young people that their voice makes it difficult for them to be heard in a small district,” McClean said. “So that doesn’t give them the enthusiasm to go and vote, because they say, ‘My voice won’t be heard anyway. I am from Anson County. “”
The Democrats won the county by 13 points in 2016, but Biden only took it by 4 points last year. Community leaders say voters risk losing faith in politics if they can’t see concrete results, which means meeting basic needs like running water and internet service.
“We would hear someone at the state level say, ‘We have money coming,’ but where is it going? ‘ said Melanie Countee, who owns a bed and breakfast called Dream Inn. “Is he going where he needs to go?” We need broadband, okay? “
Dane County, Wisconsin
About 1,000 miles away in Dane County, the capital of Wisconsin and home of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the electorate is anchored by young liberals who think big about climate change, gun control. and racial justice.
“With my generation, we have never lived in a time when America has never been in crisis,” said Chanda Chouhan, a sophomore intern for Democratic Senate candidate Alex Lasry. “I think 2020 has taught people the importance of showing up.”
While Dane has long been the face of left-wing Wisconsin, turnout has reached record highs in recent years, helping Democrats achieve statewide victories in 2018 and 2020. But with Trump out of the ballot and Biden still. struggling to deliver on its ambitious agenda, maintaining the enthusiasm will be a top priority for Democrats.
Duval County, Florida
In the swing state of Florida, Democrats and Republicans are bracing for a battle in Duval County, which spans the Jacksonville area and has long been considered Republican territory. But Biden toppled him with 51% of the vote last year to become the first Democratic presidential candidate to win it in 44 years, even as Trump won the state with huge gains in traditionally bluer counties. from South Florida.
Local Democrats want to build on increased participation from black voters, who they say were energized by the defeat of Democratic candidate Andrew Gillum for governor, and then the George Floyd protests last year.
Daniel Henry, chairman of the county’s Democratic Party, hopes to keep the momentum going by showing voters that the new administration is making progress on police reform.
“If Congress, the president and the leadership are not in a position to consolidate these issues, I fear it will have an impact on the midterm elections,” he said.
Dasha Burns reported from Luzerne County, Pennsylvania and Delaware County, Ohio. Antonia Hylton reported Dane County, Wisconsin, and Anson County, North Carolina. Shaquille Brewster reported from Duval County, Florida. Benjy Sarlin reported from Washington.