Trump up in WV but faces skepticism from milennials
What many believe has felt like the longest presidential election in American history is set to end on Nov. 8, as Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, along with a handful of third-party candidates, face off for the last time this cycle.
West Virginia has been merely a blip on the general election radar, as the Trump campaign expects it to be one of his best performers, while the Clinton camp has all but written the state off. They will be joined on the ballot by Gary Johnson, Jill Stein and Darrell Castle, of the Libertarian, Mountain, and Constitution parties, respectively.
Barely any polling has been conducted in the state, but the few that have largely bear up the assumptions of both campaigns. A Garin-Hart-Yang poll, conducted between Sept. 13 and 17, showed Trump with a nearly 32-point lead in a head to head match-up, 60% to Clinton’s 28%, with a margin of error of plus or minus 5%. A Repass poll taken Aug. 9 through 28 showed Trump at 49%, Clinton at 31%, Gary Johnson at 10%, and Jill Stein at 4%, with a margin of error of plus or minus 4.7%.
While’s Trump message of decreased immigration, social conservatism and a promise to bring back manufacturing and coal jobs may be resonating with the state’s population as a whole, millennials aren’t quite drinking the Kool-Aid and hopping on the bus.
Fernando Andrzejevski of Morgan County, a self-described socially liberal, fiscally conservative Republican, feels his generation has been let down by the choices made by the major political parties this cycle.
“It seems both parties are distancing themselves from millennials,” he said, while wondering if the Republican Party would have been better served by nominating a more mainstream conservative, akin to Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, or Paul Ryan, the Speaker of the House, from Wisconsin.
Andrzejevski believes many younger voters are looking at Gary Johnson, but readily admits he has his own baggage, much like Clinton and Trump.
Clinton does have the confidence of some younger voters in the state, which hasn’t voted for a Democrat for president since her husband ran for re-election in 1996.
Kelly Cambrel, a graduate student living in Berkeley County, feels energized and hopeful for a future with Hillary Clinton as president.
“[She’s] done a lot of listening during the campaign and I feel like she has the potential to make a positive and substantive impact if she’s electedand I think she will be,” said Cambrel, who admits she wasn’t very involved in the last two election cycles, but is closely monitoring campaigns at the local, state, and national level this year.
The vitriol exposed by the Trump campaign, a mainstay this cycle, also has millennial voters worried.
“I’m disappointed this election has become a referendum on presidential decorum, with Donald Trump’s derogatory comments and policy proposals becoming a vessel for racists, sexists and xenophobes to attempt to legitimize their beliefs,” said Bryan Staggers, of Mineral County.
Throughout his candidacy, the Republican nominee has questioned if the election will be rigged, has feuded with office holders within his own party, and has combated charges that he made sexual advances toward younger women.
Staggers says he “has hope for the future,” though, and believes his generation will work to return politics to a serious discussion of ideas, rather than playing to voters’ fears.
Across the country Clinton has been dogged by a lack of enthusiasm from younger voters, many of whom backed Senator Bernie Sanders, of Vermont, in the primary. Sanders won West Virginia by 16 points. However, Young Democrats groups across the state have been organizing debate watch parties, mobilizing volunteers, and sporting Clinton/Kaine swag.
However, with an aging population, it is unlikely young voters will provide much of a boast to Clinton’s campaign in West Virginia.
While once a bastion of Democratic strength, having voted for a Democrat for president in eight of 11 elections between 1960 and 2000, the state has trended red since then, voting for George W. Bush twice and giving Barack Obama one of his worst showings in the country in 2012.
H. S. Leigh Koonce is a sixth-generation West Virginian. He writes from Jefferson County.