The region once again in the forefront of the national political scene


WILKES-BARRE – Election trends in Luzerne County will soon be back in the national spotlight as the midterm elections approach next year, and Ed Mitchell sees it as a good thing.

The veteran political analyst said this week that the county is representative of areas of the state and country that saw significant swings from Democratic to Republican voters in 2016 and 2020.

“I think that by polling voters, tracking demographics and economies, they’ll try to determine if the change has happened because of a particular attraction to Donald Trump’s policies, or something. another that could be more permanent. “

Mitchell was responding to the announcement that NBC News and Meet the Press have relaunched their year-long ‘County to County’ project, covering and integrating seven Bellwether counties from coast to coast to report on issues affecting national implications midway through 2022. begin to take shape.

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Luzerne County will be one of the counties featured in the one-year project.

In an NBC News press release announcing the “Country to County” project over the next year, NBC News reporters will build on the success of the 2020 initiative, doubling down on its reporting from the field to understand. – from the grassroots – the issues, political fault lines and national headlines that fuel local conversations.

NBC News reporter Dasha Burns will report from Luzerne County as well as Delaware County, Ohio.

The other counties shown are: Chattooga County, Georgia; Duval County, Florida and Dane County, Wisc. ; Anson County, North Carolina, Washoe County, Nevada

NBC said reporters would interview voters throughout the next year in the seven demographically significant counties, track local economies, media landscapes and changing opinions and sentiments as the midterm races of 2022 are starting to take shape and unfold.

The report will appear on all platforms of NBC News, MSNBC and NBC News NOW. Additionally, will feature articles, segments and interactive maps.

“Focus groups and voter sentiment interviews – which NBC is trying to do on a larger scale than usual – have a place in measuring public opinion if used in combination with conventional political polls, ”Mitchell said. “For a variety of reasons, regular surveys have been halted in recent cycles. I think news networks, publications and campaigns try in different ways to get a more accurate assessment of voter sentiment. “

Mitchell said he believes racing in the country next year will be very competitive and that due to historic off-year election trends and current voter attitudes in the region, he said Republicans will have a benefit “if they find strong candidates who can raise enough money.”

Region in focus

Christopher Borick, professor of political science and director of the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion in Allentown, said Luzerne County had produced significant changes in electoral preferences in elections over the past decade, with those changes being representative of a broader national dynamic.

“Considering that the county is located in one of the country’s key states and the region where Biden grew up, the national interest seems entirely reasonable,” Borick said. “Trump’s popularity and interest in the county also elevates his profile as the former president engages in upcoming election cycles.”

Borick noted that cycles are powerful things in American politics and after the Democratic success in 2020 the winds are now behind Republicans.

“I expect a generally positive election for Republicans next week, including in Luzerne County where Republicans have already made gains in recent years,” Borick said. “There is more energy in the Republican ranks right now and I think that energy will be realized on Election Day.”

Benjamin Toll, Ph.D., assistant professor of political science and criminology at Wilkes University, said Luzerne County has gained national significance due to its status as one of the three pivotal counties (along with Erie and Northampton) in Pennsylvania in 2016 who voted for President Obama in 2008 and 2012, but voted for President Trump in 2016.

“Lucerne County was the only one of the three to vote for President Trump again in 2020,” Toll said. “The county itself reflects many of the issues facing post-industrial communities across the country. The lack of employment opportunities and an above average unemployment rate lead to general concern about the economy. Blue collar workers who left the Democratic Party in the last generation but felt politically homeless until President Trump appeared are common in the county. Then, put simply, being a county close to President Biden’s childhood home is a compelling story for the national press. “

Toll said he believes the 2022 midterm elections will be heavily contested, especially in Luzerne County.

“Both political parties continue to view it as an indicator for the many parts of the country that are similar to it,” Toll said. “But, we will also have an election for governor as well as an expensive senatorial campaign. I expect to see voters who backed President Trump to help the Republican Party win in the county in 2022. ”

However, Toll said the interesting question would be whether voters who primarily supported Trump would go to the polls again when he wasn’t on the ballot.

“I expect the GOP to continue winning, but not as pronounced as it was in 2016 and 2020,” Toll said.

Toll said he believed the main reason national outlets wanted to spend time here was because the county represented a large part of Central America.

“It’s not far from New York or Washington DC, and the history of its importance over the past few years cannot be understated,” Toll said. “It remains to be seen if he will continue to retain his prominence, but over the next few years it is safe to assume that many stories will be written with the continued aim of understanding how Biden’s agenda plays out near his town.” native, whether Trump’s Republicans remain engaged voters, and how post-industrial cities make sense of an economic landscape that continues to be unfavorable.

County party leaders

Lucerne County Democratic President Kathy Bozinski said NBC had yet to contact her about the County to County series, but said she was not surprised the network was focusing on this. region.

“I saw (NBC Meet the Press host) Chuck Todd’s interview on this, and he’s right with his analysis,” Bozinski said. “We hope that President Biden’s 2020 vote increase over Hilary Clinton’s 2016 vote total against Donald Trump will continue to evolve.”

Bozinski said she plans to work with the Committee and the Democratic Party to energize voters.

“I think Pennsylvania as a whole is a great indicator for the midterms of 2022, when you look at the contrast that is developing between the parties in the gubernatorial race and the incredibly talented field that is emerging in the Democratic race. in the US Senate and its contrast to the Republicans announced, ”Bozinski said. “Lucerne will play a role in both of these races, and I can see where the national media would look here for pointers.”

Republican County President Justin Behrens was interviewed by NBC last week at Republicans Headquarters. He said NBC told him they also interviewed several people from Luzerne County.

“This proves to the state that Luzerne County will once again be the hub county,” Behrens said. “We won this county in 2016 with President Trump, then we became a Republican majority on the county council and the county voted for President Trump again in 2020. This county is home to hard-working men and women and who want to make their voices heard. The Democratic Party has failed to recognize it and the Republican Party is the welcome tent that speaks its language.

Behrens said he was told NBC will be heading to Luzerne County to track those they interviewed last week and that he will be looking for more people that he will help connect with.

“Like everyone else, I would like them to point this out in a fair and honest manner,” Behrens said. “I told them I expected them to be fair and objective. They told me they wanted to see the trends and make it a documentary about running with no set agenda.

About Dasha Burns

NBC News reporter Dasha Burns will be reporting from Luzerne County, Pennsylvania and Delaware County, Ohio for the year-long “County to County” project launched by NBC News and Meet the Press.

Burns joined NBC in 2016 as a producer, covering everything from the 2016 Charlottesville election, the pitch and the control room.

She began doing on-air reporting on NBC with a focus on the voices of ordinary Americans from all corners of the country, to better understand the state of the nation ahead of the 2020 race.

She helped lead the county-to-county election series and also worked to shed light on complex issues impacting minority communities, such as gerrymandering, the digital divide and environmental injustice.

Dasha attended UC Berkeley and has a BA in Anthropology, Media Studies, and Drama. She currently lives in New York.


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