Local party officials react to Platte County’s numbers
ocal political party officials expressed some surprise that President Donald Trump outperformed Joe Biden in Platte County by only a narrow margin in the Nov. 3 election.
After a counting of provisional ballots and a recounting of absentees, an official tally in Platte County shows Biden received 47.48 percent or 27,179 votes in the county while Trump finished with 50.51 percent or 28,917 votes-a difference of only 1,738 votes.
The local tally opened some eyes because Platte County voters traditionally vote predominantly Republican, the officials agreed.
In 2016, for example, Trump outperformed Hillary Clinton in Platte County by 52% to 40%, a margin that is about nine percentage points better than the margin with which he was preferred over Biden last week.
Republican Central Committee Chairman Jim Rooney said what surprised him most was the number of voters who, once reaching the polls or receiving their ballots by mail, left the presidential slot blank while continuing to support Republican candidates in statewide races.
Of the competitive statewide races, Trump received the fewest votes in Platte County of any statewide Republican candidate, Rooney said.
Trump received 28,917 votes while Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft received the most Republican votes at 31,356.
And incumbent Gov. Mike Parson received 29,616 votes-a difference of 699 better than Trump.
Rooney, the Platte County Republican Committee chair, said he has a hard time understanding why a citizen would bother to vote but ignore the nation’s top office. But Rooney said Trump’s penchant for tweeting and his somewhat abrasive personality probably turned some people away from supporting the incumbent candidate.
“People voted on feelings instead of policy,” he said.
Rooney also put a lot of stock in early voting.
“This has been one hell of a year,” he said during a Monday telephone interview and explained that early voters were not exposed to later-released campaign advertisements and other messages about the country’s strong economic performance before the pandemic.
In addition, the Republican campaign message that the economy was bouncing back “earlier than expected” under Trump’s leadership was not heard by early voters, some of whom voted during late summer. He said the push by Democrats to lock in early votes was a campaign strategy that worked to Biden’s advantage.
Rooney also blamed Platte County voters’ “mental state from being in a pandemic,” which explained some of the lack of votes for either presidential candidate, or those who voted for Biden. He said while some voters nationwide questioned Trump’s response to the pandemic, the president’s action was “all he could do” during an unprecedented situation.
Rooney said Trump could not have had “20-20 hindsight” in dealing with the pandemic and that the number of lives lost would have been much higher without the president’s actions.
When asked which actions the administration took, he pointed to the local control given to city, county, and state officials throughout the country, much of which reduced the number of lives lost to the virus. For example, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson’s work with area manufacturers to re-tool their factories to produce much-needed personal protective gear for front-line workers, including medical personnel, was very impactful, Rooney said.
Platte County Democratic Central Committee Chairman David Christian said his party’s officials were pleased that Biden carried 48 percent of the votes while Trump finished with 50 percent.
“We’re hoping to build on that in the future,” Christian said and explained Democratic officials hope the high turnout for Biden is a trend that will play out in future elections.
Christian said the president’s lack of leadership in the pandemic caused a lot of voters, including those in Platte County who voted for Biden, to believe that “Trump had not taken the virus seriously” and was not listening to the scientists and medical experts when responding to the pandemic.
Many voters also considered Trump’s lack of deference to such experts when it comes to climate change a reason to support the Democratic candidate, the Democratic official said during a telephone interview on Monday.
Christian also pointed to Trump’s personality as a drawback, citing the divisive nature of his tweets and public comments, which lead to turmoil and sometimes violence, during an already-tumultuous time. Christian said voters are weary of such actions and are ready to “get back to a situation where we work with each other instead of sniping.”
Christian said Trump misled voters during the 2016 campaign, stating he would “work across the aisle,” but instead “chose to pick fights and call names.”
Christian said party officials expected to receive more votes in the Democratic column because they had noticed so many residents picking up Biden yard signs. In those cases, he said the Biden votes represented “a welcome reassurance” that Democrats can be viable candidates in Platte County.
Biden’s numbers would even have been higher if the national campaign headquarters had spent more money in advertising here, Christian said, although he understands the strategy. National party officials rightly focused on increasing Biden support in key states such as Pennsylvania and Georgia, which could ultimately lead to enough for Biden to score a victory.
“Those states got all the attention,” he said, adding that officials “pretty much figured the areas outside of Missouri’s larger cities were predicted to predominantly vote for Trump.
Christian said Biden received more votes in Platte County in 2020 than Hilary Clinton got in 2016. Many voters already knew about the former first lady and many had formed negative opinions, he said.
However, some Platte Countians, as with some voters nationwide, “had a positive image” of Biden.
Christian said Biden’s political messaging that he would be a president to all Americans and not just those who voted for him and his penchant for working with Republicans is “what people want right now.” He tried to categorize voters’ feelings when he said, “They want people who can get things done–who aren’t going to play political games.”
After a few days of counting mail- in ballots in several states, on Saturday Biden was declared the presumptive winner of the presidential race. Trump has said he will mount as of yet unspecified legal challenges in some states. National experts have said they do not expect Trump’s legal challenges in some states, even if successful, to be enough to overcome Biden’s apparent margin of victory in the electoral college category. Biden is presumed to have won 290 electoral college votes to 214 for Trump. A total of 270 electoral college votes are required to win the office.
The recounting of absentees affected the official percentage of voter turnout. Local elected officials on election night said voter turnout was 84.5%. But as reported in last week’s Landmark, some absentee ballots had mistakenly been tabulated twice. A recount conducted late last week adjusted that percentage down to 82.67%. The recount of absentees and the counting of military ballots did not affect the outcome of any races but did adjust final vote totals of candidates.