Media bias, the “silent” Trump supporter, and the pivotal role Rural America will play in the outcome of the 2020 presidential election

By Dave Andrusko

As we’ve discussed for a while—say a little over the last four years—it is the custom of the Trump-hating media to grind out a scandal de jour initially in a desperate hope to ensure that Hillary Clinton would win in 2016 and, ever since, to smear Mr. Trump sufficiently to derail his bid for a second term.

When that doesn’t work, the disappointment is palpable. Take Aila Slisco, writing for Newsweek. She laments that in spite of the latest attempted hit job (this job, yet again, from The Atlantic), “Trump Approval Rating Rises.”

Specifically, in a Hill-HarrisX poll released Tuesday, the President’s approval rating stood at 47%–“his highest rating in the poll since June.” Slisco breezed by the two most important approval numbers: “19 percent of Black voters and 37 percent of Hispanic voters.” 

We won’t know until the election how many “silent” Trump supporters there actually are. Yesterday, Rasmussen Reports ran a story under the headline. “Trump Voters Are Staying Silent Again This Year.” Here are the first two paragraphs;

Trump voters appear to be hiding their vote again this election cycle.

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey finds that 17% of Likely U.S. Voters who Strongly Approve of the job President Trump is doing say they are less likely to let others know how they intend to vote in the upcoming election. By comparison, just half as many (8%) of those who Strongly Disapprove of the president’s performance say the same.

There are, of course, the polls, which are endless. However, there are more revealing indices. Here are two.

First, new voter registration. As we posted previously, both Democrats and Republicans acknowledge that Trump’s/GOP get out the vote efforts are far, far superior to Biden’s/Democrat lackluster ground game. POLITICO (no friend of the President) reported today

The GOP has added almost 198,000 registered voters to the books compared to this time four years ago, whereas Democrats have gained an extra 29,000. Though Democrats still outnumber Republicans by about 750,000 voters in the state, the GOP has seized on their uptick in party members as a sign that Trump is on track to win this critical Rust Belt swing state a second time.

“It’s one of the reasons why I am very bullish on Donald Trump’s prospects in Pennsylvania. I think he will win again, and I think he will win by more votes than he did in 2016,” said Charlie Gerow, a Harrisburg-based Republican strategist who has worked on presidential campaigns in the state. “Trump is doing what Ronald Reagan did 40 years ago, which is moving a lot of traditional Democrats into the Republican column.”

Second, the stories that will wear the best are likely going to prove to be the “deep dive” accounts where reporters circulate through a state—especially the rural counties—to take the public’s temperature. The Washington Examiner’s Salena Zito is probably the best at this kind of reporting.

Of all publications, surprisingly The New York Times Magazine just did that kind of on the ground reporting –also for Pennsylvania—which is seen not only as pivotal in itself but also as a bellwether for other states such as Michigan.

The headline for Michael Sokolove’s story is, “How Trump could win Pennsylvania again: Can Democrats forestall another landside in the state’s rural counties?” Here are the essential highlights.

In 2016 Hillary Clinton did not fare as well as Barack Obama did in 2012 in the large urban areas with large numbers of African-Americans. By contrast

Pennsylvania has 67 counties. Mr. Trump ran up the score in all of the least populated ones. Even tiny Cameron County, the state’s smallest, contributed 423 more votes to the Republican margin than it had in 2012. …

[These counties] tilted the state to Mr. Trump. The totals in any one of them may seem small, but in the aggregate, they gave Mr. Trump a margin of victory at least 150,000 votes bigger than Mr. Romney had run up four years earlier. That was enough for Mr. Trump to win Pennsylvania and its 20 electoral votes by a razor-thin 48.58 percent to 47.85 percent.

Why? 

“Trump is just on the wavelength of rural America in a way that previous Republicans were not,” said David Hopkins, an associate professor of political science at Boston College and the author of “Red Fighting Blue: How Geography and Electoral Rules Polarize American Politics.”

It is not to underestimate the importance of suburbs, but as Sokolove implies, reporting on the changes—real and imaginary and/or exaggerated—are at the expense of where the election may truly be decided: small town, rural America.

“When you look at the rural areas, it’s the margins that matter,” Mr. Hopkins, the Boston College professor, said. “The suburbs get a lot of attention because you have those counties that used to be red, and now they’re blue. When you see that on a map on TV, it looks dramatic. But all these places that went from like 60-40 Republican to 80-20 for Trump are just as dramatic and they were critical to the result.”