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What Voters In Pennsylvania Suburbs Say About Biden And Trump Now


Gains with suburban voters helped Joe Biden win the presidency. Suburbs were long Republican terrain, but their move to the left accelerated with the rise of Donald Trump. NPR's Don Gonyea checks in with suburban voters in Pennsylvania to see how they're feeling about Biden and Trump now.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: Kate Hunsberger works as a fundraiser for a college outside Philadelphia. She lives in the nearby suburbs. She is 32, married with two cats. She describes her politics this way.

KATE HUNSBERGER: I was a Republican for a long time.

GONYEA: Then came 2015. When Donald Trump emerged as a GOP contender, she became a Democrat. Hunsberger says she's more moderate than many in her new party but feels at home nonetheless. She sees President Biden as a fellow moderate.

HUNSBERGER: I think he's doing exactly what needs to be done right now, which is a clear focus on trying to get the pandemic under control, trying to get us back to normal.

GONYEA: And she's glad that Biden is pushing a big infrastructure and jobs plan.

HUNSBERGER: If you've driven through Pennsylvania, you probably know about our wonderful potholes - so anything to help with that.

GONYEA: But the moderate in her says she wants Biden to work with Republicans on the plan's size. More than anything, she expresses relief that Trump is no longer president.

HUNSBERGER: The last four years have been so traumatizing - and I hate to use that, but I do not use that word lightly - that the progress that has been made feels refreshing.

GONYEA: Now to another Philadelphia suburb and another former Republican, Luis Morales, who's retired from a career in the banking industry. In Biden, he sees a lot he likes.

LUIS MORALES: Even before he was elected, he knew what he wanted to do when he got in there. And a lot of it was reversing some of Trump's actions.

GONYEA: Morales says he'd like to see bipartisanship in Washington. To that end, he does not want Democrats to eliminate the Senate filibuster, but he stresses that Republicans have to bargain in good faith, too. And he says this of the GOP today.

MORALES: They just don't seem to want to play fair right now. For example, their quests not only at the national level but at the local levels, in particular at the state levels, to change - you know, change voting laws and make voting more stringent - to me, that's evil.

GONYEA: Head to central and western Pennsylvania, and the suburbs aren't quite as Democratic as they are around Philly. We listened in on a recent focus group moderated by Sarah Longwell for the Republican Accountability Project.

SARAH LONGWELL: Thanks for joining us. I'm going to go over just a couple housekeeping things.

GONYEA: The gathering was via Zoom. The nine participants were all college-educated suburban voters, all of whom watch conservative cable news outlets such as Fox and Newsmax. We agreed to use first names only for the focus group. Howard expressed the view of much of the group about the Biden administration.

HOWARD: I think the person that's controlling the government now, along with their media allies, are just running the country into the ground.

GONYEA: Howard is a libertarian who voted for Trump. Of the nine suburban voters, only one voted for Biden. When asked, five of them said they don't think Biden's victory is legitimate. There was strong pushback on the use of the term insurrection to describe the assault on the Capitol. On the pandemic, there was consensus the government went too far with economic restrictions. Again, here's Howard.

HOWARD: They should have just outlined the risks and said, hey; if you want to minimize your opportunity of getting sick and dying, you know, take these precautions. But they shouldn't force anybody out of work.

GONYEA: Another participant, Marcy, says she is optimistic about the state of the country, but she also misses Trump. And in the quiet that is the Biden administration, she worries about what we're not hearing.

MARCY: Like, there's things happening behind the scenes that I don't know and that they're not telling us, but it's just very quiet.

GONYEA: Within the focus group, most said they still consider Trump the leader of the Republican Party. And nearly all said they'd be willing to vote for Trump in 2024 if he decides to run, a prospect that makes other, more moderate suburban voters more than a bit nervous.

Don Gonyea, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

You're most likely to find NPR's Don Gonyea on the road, in some battleground state looking for voters to sit with him at the local lunch spot, the VFW or union hall, at a campaign rally, or at their kitchen tables to tell him what's on their minds. Through countless such conversations over the course of the year, he gets a ground-level view of American elections. Gonyea is NPR's National Political Correspondent, a position he has held since 2010. His reports can be heard on all NPR News programs and at To hear his sound-rich stories is akin to riding in the passenger seat of his rental car, traveling through Iowa or South Carolina or Michigan or wherever, right along with him.
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