In a drive along back roads across America, in places pollsters and the media usually miss, voters seem, once again, on the verge of ousting the current party in power.

Two years ago, Democrat Joe Biden beat Republican Donald Trump in large part because he promised a calmer political climate and claimed he would work across the aisle to achieve bipartisan change.

But when the former vice president kicked off his presidency on Day One by shutting down the Keystone Pipeline, many who put him in office were concerned. Their worries deepened when he botched our exit from Afghanistan in August 2021. And, this year, when he called skyrocketing inflation “transitory,” lots of voters decided it was time for new leadership in the midterm elections on Nov. 8.

The Cook Political Report predicts Republicans will win as many as 25 seats in the House of Representatives, reclaiming control of the chamber. In the Senate, RealClearPolitics projects the GOP will pick up three seats, in Arizona, Georgia and Nevada, and also keep their seats in Ohio and Pennsylvania, wresting control from the Democrats, who currently hold just a one-vote advantage.

Swing voter Fred Rush was in Erie, Pa., last month to see Oz in action. The ex-government worker says he is leaning toward voting for the former celebrity TV doctor.
Swing voter Fred Rush was in Erie, Pa., last month to see Oz in action. The ex-government worker says he is leaning toward voting for the former celebrity TV doctor.
Salena Zito for NY Post

Meanwhile, in gubernatorial elections in 36 states, several Democratic incumbents look vulnerable against GOP challengers, especially in Wisconsin, Michigan and even blue-leaning New York. The much-anticipated Georgia rematch between Republican Gov. Brian Kemp and Democrat Stacey Abrams appears headed toward a landslide for Kemp. But the biggest statewide upset could happen in Oregon, where Democrat Tina Kotek is trailing Republican Christine Drazan amid widespread dissatisfaction over failed progressive policies.

Ultimately, the results will be decided by the voters in America’s swing counties, where support shifts easily between both parties.

Since 2020, Democratic candidate for Senate John Fetterman has repeatedly said “whoever wins Erie, wins Pennsylvania.”
Since 2020, Democratic candidate for Senate John Fetterman has repeatedly said “whoever wins Erie, wins Pennsylvania.”
David McGlynn

Take Erie County in Pennsylvania. In 2008 and 2012 Barack Obama won this county easily; Trump won it narrowly in 2016. In 2020, Biden only just bested Trump. Then last year, a Republican won the countywide executive race for the first time in decades.

This year, Republican Dr. Mehmet Oz is running against Democrat Lt. Gov. John Fetterman for the US Senate in Pennsylvania, in a nail-biting “toss-up” race. Since 2020, Fetterman has repeatedly said “whoever wins Erie, wins Pennsylvania.” That’s why he held his first rally here since suffering a stroke in May, and Oz walked the streets of Erie in October, talking to local business owners and people he met along the way.

With Fetterman often out of sight due to health issues, Oz’s willingness to meet with ordinary voters has turned into a major campaign advantage.
With Fetterman often out of sight due to health issues, Oz’s willingness to meet with ordinary voters has turned into a major campaign advantage.
REUTERS

That’s where I met Fred Rush, 79, who was leaning against the outside wall of Ringo’s Appliances in Erie, his eyes laser-focused on Oz. He told me he was trying to decide whether the candidate’s interactions were expertly staged or natural.

Rush is a classic swing voter. For decades, he worked in local government, starting with a Democratic mayor who he reported to for well over a decade. He went on to serve under Democrat and Republican county executives, then another Democratic mayor. He even did a stint for former Gov. Tom Ridge — an Erie native and a Republican — as director of his commission on African-American affairs.

Rush said he has always voted for people from both parties but this year he is leaning toward Oz.

Fed up with COVID-era business closures, Pittsburgh restaurant-owner Emerencia Torma (here with husband, Michael) is voting “Republican, all Republican” this year.
Fed up with COVID-era business closures, Pittsburgh restaurant-owner Emerencia Torma (here with husband, Michael) is voting “Republican, all Republican” this year.

“My only concern about him is his lack of policy experience,” he said. “However, he certainly is showing up to the communities that will show him what policies will impact their lives.”

Rush said there is a big difference between a political candidate who drops in, does a rally, and then leaves, and one who actually meets with individual voters and listens to them.

“When people show up in communities, it shows they care,” he said. “You have to come here and listen to those families who live here, the ones impacted by crime, the scourge of drug overdoses, the ones who can’t afford to buy food or pay for their utilities.

In the Tormas’ Congressional district — which has been Democratic for decades — the race between Democrat Summer Lee (above) and Republican Mike Doyle is surprisingly close.
In the Tormas’ Congressional district — which has been Democratic for decades — the race between Democrat Summer Lee (above) and Republican Mike Doyle is surprisingly close.
Bloomberg via Getty Images

“The candidate who stresses on those points wins.”

Oz has also got the vote of Emerencia Torma, who owns Hungarian restaurant Huszar in Pittsburgh’s North Side neighborhood. Many pundits thought Republicans like Torma, 65, would not fall in line behind the Trump-backed Oz after he won a bruising primary by just 951 votes.

But after months of COVID closures followed by crippling inflation, many Pennsylvania business owners feel fed up and energized to pull the lever for the celebrity doctor. And not just him.

Local Borough Council President Doyle stands likely to benefit from voters such as Torma, who feel that Democrats “have failed us.”
Local Borough Council President Doyle stands likely to benefit from voters such as Torma, who feel that Democrats “have failed us.”
Bloomberg via Getty Images

“I’m voting Republican. All Republican,” Torma says flatly.

Many of her neighbors appear to feel the same way. In the deep-blue 12th Congressional District, where Torma lives, the race between Democratic state Rep. Summer Lee and Republican borough council President Mike Doyle is shockingly close for a seat that has not been held by the GOP in decades.

‘It’s the uncertainty Democrats have placed in every aspect of our lives and the overreach …’

Ohio dad of three Doug Wood, on voting Republican this year

Crime, drug use and homelessness have something to do with that. A sizable homeless camp has emerged just down the street from Torma’s restaurant. Last month, two innocent women standing at a bus stop in the area got caught in gunfire and were killed. Torma calls the uncertainty of what will happen next “unbearable” at times.

“I am not going to give up, my parents came here for freedom and opportunity, that is why I am voting Republican,” said Torma, whose parents immigrated to the US from Hungary in 1956. “They offer that choice, the Democrats have failed us.” 

Michigan barbershop-owner Mark Heberling is also a cattle farmer who said the rising cost of maintaining his beef business has influenced his decision to vote Republican this year.
Michigan barbershop-owner Mark Heberling is also a cattle farmer who said the rising cost of maintaining his beef business has influenced his decision to vote Republican this year.

In Sandusky, Mich., Mark Heberling is standing in the middle of his barber shop, Mark’s Barber Shop. In addition to owning this business for 38 years, Heberling, 59, has also run an 80-acre beef farm with his youngest son, Raymond, since 2004. When COVID hit in 2020 and his barbershop got shut down by the state for six weeks, he was desperate.

“It got to the point where my customers were calling me at home. I put a barber chair in my living room and I started cutting hair at home,” he said, adding that the move got him in trouble with local officials and resulted in a fine that was settled out of court.

“I ended up taking a number of part-time jobs, just bouncing here and there, for whoever would pay me to do work. I done cement work, I done construction work, I worked as a part-time meat cutter. I stocked shelves for a while in a store. I had to do whatever I could do to keep bills paid, and so it was very stressful.”

GOP challenger Tudor Dixon is neck-and-neck with Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in a state that endured some of the harshest lockdowns in the US during the pandemic.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (above) could lose her job after imposing some of the harshest lockdowns in the US during the pandemic.

Michigan’s Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has been in power since 2018, presiding over one of the strictest lockdowns in the country — in a state Trump won in 2016, Biden took in 2020, and Obama won twice. Now, Whitmer could very well lose her seat to GOP-backed Tudor Dixon, who trails her opponent by less than one percentage point.

A registered Republican, Herberling said he will be voting for Dixon for governor — who visited his shop recently — and not just because her running mate, state Rep. Shane Hernandez, is one of his faithful clients.

“I have never voted a straight ticket in my life,” Herberling said. “I supported Democrat John Espinoza, our state representative, all three times he ran and won office. I tend to vote for the people that support my beliefs.”

Today’s economic pressures, especially on the beef farm, are informing his vote this year.

Heberling says GOP challenger Tudor Dixon (above), who visited his barbershop earlier this year, will have his vote for governor.
Heberling says GOP challenger Tudor Dixon (above), who visited his barbershop earlier this year, will have his vote for governor.
Getty Images

“Inflation is killing us,” he said. “The cost of production to raise an acre of corn this year went up probably 50- to 60%, next year it’ll probably double from what it was two years ago. The cost of machinery is astronomical. I mean, a 40-year-old tractor that you could have bought for $10,000 a year ago is now $15,000.

“The fuel cost is the biggest thing. I mean, you go from $1.79 diesel fuel to $5.40 diesel fuel. Them tractors eat five, six gallons an hour, some of them. The honest-to-goodness truth is there really is no money at the end of the day. In fact, there’s less because of everything going up.”

Doug Wood, his wife, Chelsea, and their three kids are new to Dayton, Ohio. Until 2020, Doug, 38, was happily settled in Peters Township, Penn., near Pittsburgh, where he lived close to family and enjoyed his career as director of transportation and development at 84 Lumber.

Former Pennsylvanians Doug and Chelsea Wood (with their two kids) moved to Ohio after Doug lost his job for refusing to be vaccinated against COVID.
Former Pennsylvanians Doug and Chelsea Wood (with their two kids) moved to Ohio after Doug lost his job for refusing to be vaccinated against COVID.

But last fall, 84 Lumber’s embrace of the COVID vaccine mandate changed everything for him.

“I chose not to get it, so I lost my job,” he said. “What upset me about how my company in particular went about it, was that it wasn’t every position in the company. I became frustrated with the company because they were picking and choosing where to apply the mandate and my choice was over the principle of the thing.”

Wood found a new position in the transportation industry in Dayton, and his wife Chelsea, 36, is now expecting their fourth child. Montgomery County, where they live, is the ultimate swing county. Obama won by large margins here in 2008 and 2012. But in 2016, Trump beat Clinton, marking the first time since 1988 that voters in this county went Republican. Four years later, they picked Biden over Trump.

Ohio’s US Senate race had been a near-tie for months, but Republican J.D. Vance (above) has taken a 2% edge over Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan in recent polling.
Ohio’s US Senate race had been a near-tie for months, but Republican J.D. Vance (above) has taken a 2% edge over Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan in recent polling.
Aaron Josefczyk/UPI/Shutterstock

This year, Democratic Congressman Tim Ryan is running against Republican J.D. Vance for US Senate in Ohio. For months, the two candidates were neck-and-neck, but a recent poll from USA Today/Suffolk University shows Vance pulling away by 2 points.

In any other year, Wood said he would give Ryan a second look over Vance, the author of 2016’s bestselling memoir “Hillbilly Elegy” who was endorsed by Trump.

But not this year.

“It’s the uncertainty Democrats have placed in every aspect of our lives and the overreach that has me voting for Vance. Heck, I am voting all Republican,” said Wood, who added that voting for one party down ballot is something he rarely does.

Democrats like Ryan (above) have led to “overreach” in nearly every aspect of life in America today, Wood said.
Democrats like Ryan (above) have led to “overreach” in nearly every aspect of life in America today, Wood said.
AP

“The way the inflation’s gone, [it’s] just a complete lapse of judgment on the impact government spending would have on the country,” he added.

Public education policies also concern him.

“For instance, we moved to a certain school district, and are paying higher taxes to get a quality public school education for our kids,” he said. Now he and his wife are second-guessing that decision.

“It seems to be fine now, but you just worry with the public school sector. Did we make the right choice? Should we send our kids to Catholic school or find a private school? I would not hesitate to pull my kids and reassess their education if I find their education is not math and science and instead becoming part of the woke culture.”

He shakes his head at the state of the country.

“I’ve voted for Barack Obama, I’ve voted for Donald Trump. I am pretty independent.

“However, the last few years have made me more conservative.”





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