Trump falters in state but keeps electoral edge

President Donald Trump remains unpopular in Pennsylvania, according to the latest round of a tracking poll that monitors voters’ attitudes.

But while his approval ratings are underwater in several important Rust Belt states, his relative edge in the Electoral College appears to be growing, analysts said last week.

Trump has held net negative approval ratings in Pennsylvania since summer 2017, according to Morning Consult, which tracks state-level support each month.

Newly released June numbers show his unpopularity here is at near-record lows, with a 9-point deficit.

The situation is similar in states like Wisconsin and Ohio, where Trump won in 2016 — earning an Electoral College win despite a 2.1 percent, 3 million-vote loss in the nationwide popular vote.

Last week, analysts with several news and polling outlets pointed to a widening voter gap in key states that could deliver an even more split result than in 2016.

Demographic shifts and political polarization suggest that, if Trump manages to win over enough Midwestern battleground states, he could win a second term despite losing by as many as 5 million votes, a New York Times analysis found.

That’s not to say such a result is likely — Trump’s support has fallen in those key states — but it shows the possibility of a narrow electoral win focused on a few divided states. If Trump pursues that strategy, Pennsylvania could find itself front and center.

Impeachment grows, then fizzles

Meanwhile in Congress, efforts to remove Trump from office have slowly gained steam, with a bill to launch impeachment drawing several new votes from Pennsylvania representatives.

Last week, amid a rolling battle over Trump’s comments on a group of Democratic congresswomen, the House voted to table an impeachment effort, effectively killing it. But the resolution drew 95 votes, including some from representatives who had previously been opposed.

Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-7th District; Rep. Brendan Boyle, D-2nd District; Rep. Mike Doyle, D-13th District; Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, D-5th District; and Rep. Dwight Evans, D-3rd District; all voted to move the impeachment resolution forward on Wednesday.

“It’s time for us to deal with his bigotry,” Rep. Al Green, the bill’s primary sponsor, said. “This president has demonstrated that he’s willing to yell ‘fire’ in a crowded theater, and we have seen what can happen to people when bigotry is allowed to have a free rein.”

While the latest impeachment effort fizzled, a resolution condemning Trump’s attacks on the young representatives — including his request that they “go back” to their countries of origin — passed the House last week.

Only a handful of Republicans, including Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, D-1st District, joined their Democratic colleagues to condemn Trump; local representatives including Rep. John Joyce, R-13th District, and Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson, R-15th District, voted no.

Turnpike tolls rise despite lawsuit

News that the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission is raising tolls for its 12th straight year drew little shock from the truckers’ group waging a legal battle against the agency.

“It’s that time of year: fireworks, hot dogs and the annual Pennsylvania Turnpike toll increase announcement,” Land Line, the official publication of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, wrote Wednesday.

The group, which represents independent truck drivers, has carried on a lengthy fight against turnpike officials — a fight that has created serious knock-on effects on public transit across the state.

The group contends that Pennsylvania’s high and ever-increasing tolls result from a requirement that the turnpike transfer hundreds of millions of dollars to PennDOT each year. The policy makes driving across the state painfully expensive, but keeps bus and train lines running elsewhere.

The truck group’s lawsuit halted payments for months, prompting state officials to warn that subsidized passenger rail service could be slashed. The court ruling in the turnpike’s favor offered a brief respite, but the truckers’ appeal could raise the same threat.

Lawyers for both sides presented arguments before an appellate court earlier this month, the drivers group said. The group calls Pennsylvania’s toll system “a burden on interstate commerce.”

Ryan Brown can be reached at rbrown@altoonamirror.com

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