- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 10, 2017

HARRISBURG, Pa. — After enthusiastically casting her vote for Donald Trump in November and helping deliver an upset win by swinging the state to Republicans, Kathy said she has turned against the unorthodox president.

“He’s kind of a loose cannon [and] pretty much of a jerk,” said Kathy, an insurance underwriter and registered Republican in her 60s who didn’t want to give her last name.

She didn’t know what to think about Mr. Trump’s visit to the state capital Wednesday to stump for the Republican tax reform plan. Kathy said she was only vaguely aware of the details.

She is part of Mr. Trump’s coalition in Pennsylvania that has begun to fray at the edges. His core supporters remain enthusiastic, but his base is shrinking and eroding his political capital in a state he narrowly won.

That is problematic for the president’s strategy to get tax reform through Congress.

Mr. Trump is coming to Harrisburg to rally his base to get behind the tax reform plan. He will make the pitch in an Air National Guard hangar in front of hundreds of truckers to drive home the point that it is designed to create jobs and put money into pockets of working Americans.

The president also is prodding his base in states he won to put pressure on Senate Democrats up for re-election next year. He is looking for Democratic support to pad the Republicans’ thin majority in the Senate and hopefully avoid a repeat of failures to repeal Obamacare.

Similar events in Republican-leaning Missouri, North Dakota and Indiana targeted incumbent Senate Democrats who are particularly vulnerable.

But Mr. Trump’s base is shrinking in Pennsylvania, and two-term Democratic Sen. Bob Casey, isn’t feeling threatened.

“It’s not 2016 anymore, and Trump’s standing in PA is not great,” said Christopher Borick, a political science professor at Muhlenberg College in Allentown. “Trump will be well received by his base as always, but there are questions about his coalition holding up here.”

A Morning Consult poll found Mr. Trump’s approval ratings sliding in all 50 states, with significant drops where he won by narrow margins.

Mr. Trump squeezed out Hillary Clinton in the Keystone State by 1.2 percentage points, 48.8 percent to 47.6 percent, a difference of a little more than 68,000 votes out of more than 5.7 million cast.

Still, it swung the state to the Republican Party for the first time since 1988.

Nine months after Mr. Trump took the oath of office, his approval rating has dived 18 points. A majority, 51 percent, now disapprove of Mr. Trump, according to the poll.

The Franklin & Marshall College Poll found Mr. Trump’s support among Republicans and conservatives had toppled from 37 percent in May to 29 percent in September.

However, the president’s core support from mostly rural, white and older Pennsylvania residents remained stable, according to the survey.

Mr. Casey is probably thinking the president could be more of a drag than a boost for his opponent next year, Mr. Borick said.

“He will get more upside from continuing to be tough on the president rather than looking like he is working with him. Trump will have to make major compromises on taxes and other policy areas before Casey feels real pressure to come aboard,” he said.

Indeed, Mr. Casey called the Republican plan a “massive tax cuts for the super-rich, big corporations and Washington special interests, which won’t create jobs or grow incomes for middle-class families.”

Mr. Trump has been stressing that the plan is geared toward the middle class and job creation. But many of the reforms, as much as 80 percent of the benefit by some estimates, would go to the wealthy and to corporations.

The president said Tuesday that he is tweaking the plan to make it even stronger for the middle class.

“People want to see tax cuts. They want to see major reductions in their taxes, and they want to see tax reform — and that’s what we’re doing,” he said. “We’ll be adjusting a little bit over the next few weeks to make it even stronger, but I will tell you that it’s become very, very popular.”

In the speech, the president will tout how the reforms would simplify the tax code, cut taxes for middle-class families, create a large zero tax bracket for workers at the bottom of the wage scale and significantly expand the child tax credit, according to a senior White House official.

Kathy couldn’t pinpoint a single incident that turned her off from the president, though she said she expected aides would have imposed more discipline on Mr. Trump.

“I guess I thought he would have people who should help him make decisions, but those people don’t seem to have any influence,” she said.

Concerns voiced by Trump voters in Pennsylvania ran the gamut.

Some were miffed by his tweets, including his feuds with Republican lawmakers such as Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee.

Some said his saber-rattling and hawkish rhetoric threatens to get the U.S. into another war.

Others simply complained that he wasn’t getting his agenda through Congress.

At the same time, there is no evidence that Mr. Trump has won over any voters who didn’t back him in November.

Zach Shuman, a 35-year-old social worker who voted for the Green Party’s Jill Stein, said his opinion of Mr. Trump went “from bad to worse.”

“What he’s done with the EPA and the National Parks — he hasn’t won me over,” he said.

Mark Stewart, a lawyer in Harrisburg, said he was feeling some buyer’s remorse over his vote for Mr. Trump, but he was convinced he was better off than with Mrs. Clinton in the White House.

“He’s done some positive things, but he sometimes seems like he shoots himself in the foot and he doesn’t get any help from Congress,” said Mr. Stewart, 47, a Republican.

Still, Mr. Trump’s core supporters remain loyal.

“I love the president. People should get off his case,” said Pat Davis, 64, who manages a hardware store. “I’m sick of them picking on him.”

Ms. Davis was behind the tax plan 100 percent.

“I’m small business, and he’s going to cut taxes for small business,” she said.

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