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Trump lost these supporters after dual crises struck. It could cost him a second term

By Alex Roarty, McClatchy Washington Bureau on

Published in Political News

RALEIGH, N.C. - Jay Copan is careful to explain why he's supporting a Democratic presidential candidate for the first time in 44 years.

The breaking point didn't come with President Donald Trump's tweets or slander of a man Copan admired, John McCain. The 69-year-old retiree has long detested Trump - he considers the Republican a terrible role model for his six grandchildren - but even as recently as the spring he begrudgingly acknowledged that he was still open to backing the president, just as he did in 2016.

It was watching the "clown show" press briefings during the early days of the pandemic - and subsequent "unbelievable" response to the death of George Floyd - that convinced Copan that Trump's presidency was unsalvageable.

"I just feel so passionately about the fact he does not deserve another four years in office," said Copan, a registered independent who lives in suburban Raleigh. "We've done the four years with him, and he's shown what he can do and what he can't do. He just does not deserve another four years."

Copan is now not only voting against Trump, he's lent his voice to a group working against the president known as Republican Voters Against Trump - offering testimony that fellow former supporters of his should vote for Joe Biden now.

A lot has gone wrong for Trump this year. He's on the defensive in key states, getting badly outspent, and was sidelined from the campaign trail for a week because of his COVID-19 illness.

 

But the most intractable of his problems might be people like Copan, who after supporting Trump in 2016 because they considered him the lesser of two evils are now committed to voting for Biden. They are voters who formed an essential part of Trump's winning but narrow coalition last time around and the kind he desperately needs this year.

That shift came close to not happening. In interview after interview, a broad collection of political strategists said their own research found that many reluctant 2016 Trump voters were genuinely open to supporting him again when the year began, with many of them even likely to do so.

Their views changed for good with the dual crises that arrived in the spring that affected Trump's political standing broadly but, according to these strategists, was particularly harmful with this small but critical group of voters who never liked him in the first place.

And perhaps surprisingly, many of them emphasize that as harmful as the pandemic and resulting economic recession was, Trump's reaction to the Black Lives Matter protests - highlighted by his controversial appearance in front of the St. John's Episcopal Church near the White House to hold a photo-op with a Bible in hand - was every bit, if not more, damaging to him, especially with younger swing voters.

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