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Rick Telesz is a farmer from northwestern Pennsylvania who voted for Donald Trump in 2016 after supporting Barack Obama four years earlier. But Telesz says Trump won't get his vote again in 2020—unless the trade war comes to an end.
"My breaking point with the current president came when I realized his trade war had caused 20 percent losses for the 750-acre family farm I help run in western Pennsylvania," Telesz wrote in an op-ed that USA Today published last week. Telesz' farm produces soybeans, corn, and dairy products, all of which have been negatively affected by the retaliatory tariffs imposed by China in response to President Donald Trump's widespread tariffs targeting Chinese-made goods.
And while a real backlash against Trump's trade policies might not happen until 2020, new research shows that the Republican Party has already paid a smaller electoral price for Trump's trade war. During the 2018 midterm elections—and particularly in rural "swing" counties that could be key to Trump's re-election hopes—researchers from Dartmouth College and the Peterson Institute for International Economics found "a modest but robust negative relationship between local employment exposure to the 2018 trade war and support for Republican House candidates."
The 2018 midterms were not good for Republicans, as the party lost 40 House seats and its majority in the chamber. Blanchard, Bown, and Chor argue that about 10 percent of the overall decline in vote share for House GOP candidates between 2016 and 2018 was due to the consequences of the trade war, and the effect was most concentrated, they say, in swing counties where Trump narrowly lost the popular vote in 2016.
"Negative association was driven largely by retaliatory tariffs on agricultural products, particularly in political swing counties where Trump narrowly lost the popular vote in 2016," they write.
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