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Is Trump's COVID-19 Response Affecting Your Vote? Northeast Ohioans Discuss

The first 2020 presidential debate in Cleveland Tuesday will bring the election into focus for some voters. For many, the coronavirus pandemic is top of mind as the candidates face off.

But has the pandemic affected who is getting your vote?

For Akron resident Jacob Liebler, President Donald Trump’s response to the pandemic is one of the factors in his choice not to vote for him. The president was slow to respond to the emerging threat of the outbreak and wasn’t transparent about it, Liebler said.

“It always seemed like his intention was to slip as much under the rug from the people before trying to even admit there was a problem,” Liebler said.

Margaret Buzas, a Cleveland resident, agrees, and said she does not trust Trump's judgment.

"I think he just kind of blew it off, and now it's come back to bite him, and now he's scrambling," Buzas said.

Emily Olson, who lives in Westlake, was not planning to vote for Trump before the pandemic, but said his response to COVID-19 reaffirmed her choice.

“Trump knew it would be bad before anyone else, but decided to keep it a secret. And then, by the time he started talking about it, the damage was already done,” she said.

In February, Trump told journalist Bob Woodward privately that the virus was easily spread and deadly – but a week later, in a White House briefing the president said cases would soon decline.

The president has since acknowledged that he downplayed the threat of COVID-19 in an attempt to not worry people.

Dave Morris, a Republican voter from Brook Park, supports that reasoning.

“That’s what a leader should do. You shouldn’t want to cause a panic,” Morris said. “So to say, ‘I’m trying to understate it,’ that’s probably not a bad thing to do because you don’t want to scare people.”

Trump’s response to the pandemic is not a factor in Morris's vote at all, he said. He voted for Trump in 2016 and plans to do so again in November. 

Solon resident Marilyn Matia has been a GOP volunteer since the 1960s. She praised Trump for keeping the majority of the pandemic response in the hands of local officials, like Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, she said.

“His national response was, in my mind, perfect, because he did not try to do this from the national level,” Matia said. “I would not have wanted any federal mandate, and I still don’t want federal mandates, because that’s not how our government was structured.”

The president’s state-by-state approach to COVID-19 is one of the reasons she plans to vote for him, Matia said.

Such perspectives from Northeast Ohio residents are in line with voters nationwide, according to an August survey from the Pew Research Center.

When asked which issues matter most to them in their vote for president, 82 percent of voters who identified themselves as supporters of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said they view the coronavirus outbreak as “very important,” compared to just 39 percent of Trump voters.

If Biden is elected, Olson hopes he will use the experiences from the Obama administration to organize his national pandemic response. She isn’t sure yet, she said, whether she will vote for Biden, or third-party candidate Jo Jorgensen, a Libertarian.

She does like Biden’s running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), she said.

“I think women typically lead better because we lead from our heads,” Olson said. “Women, in general, over-think, compared to men, but that’s one of the things that would come in handy in this sort of situation. A woman’s going to think about all these different things that the men don’t think about.”

Aside from the COVID-19 response, Olson said she will decide her vote based on which candidate will best protect rights for women, minorities and the LGBTQ community, she said.

The most important political issue to Liebler in Akron, he said, is protecting immigrants and refugees.

For Morris in Brook Park, his biggest priorities in his vote for president are the economy and U.S. Supreme Court nominations. He praised Trump for renegotiating the NAFTA trade agreement.

When it comes to COVID-19, Morris hopes things will return back to normal once the election is over, he said. The virus will likely not be eradicated until at least 2021, according to health experts so combatting the pandemic is expected to be an important issue for whomever is elected president.

“I really think what’s going to happen is that a lot of the panic mode will calm down by the time the election comes,” Morris said. “I don’t think we should blame the president for the shutdown. That’s all local, truthfully.”

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