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Trump Is On Voters' Minds In Virginia's 10th District


President Trump won't actually be on the ballot in November, but in many places around the country, he may as well be. The president is weighing on many people's minds as they decide how they will vote, especially in swing areas like Virginia's 10th District. NPR's Danielle Kurtzleben has been spending some time there.

DANIELLE KURTZLEBEN, BYLINE: It's a cool, late summer night in the small town of Berryville, Va. Donna and Bob Gallagher are walking towards Main Street for dinner. They're both in their 70s. They're one of those couples that constantly interrupts each other.

DONNA GALLAGHER: I consider myself a Democrat.

BOB GALLAGHER: Well, I was always a Republican, and this time I've changed over to Democrat because I'm not happy with who's running or who's president.

KURTZLEBEN: The Gallaghers live in Virginia's 10th District. In 2016, it re-elected Republican Barbara Comstock to the House while also voting for Hillary Clinton by 10 points. This November, both Bob and Donna will be voting for Comstock's opponent, Democrat Jennifer Wexton.

B. GALLAGHER: I was for Comstock for a while, but then I got the - she was cozy with him, with the - you know? And that changed my mind.

KURTZLEBEN: When Bob says cozy with him, he's talking about Donald Trump. In 2016, Comstock at one point said she couldn't vote for Trump. But then she's been a reliable vote for most of Trump's priorities. On a patio outside a coffee shop in Purcellville, Diane Hayes said 2016 also changed her thinking.

DIANE HAYES: I have always voted who I thought was the better candidate - always - until this last election made me a Democrat.

KURTZLEBEN: So I asked her, did Donald Trump specifically have to do with that?

HAYES: That was part of it (laughter). That was a big part of it (laughter).

KURTZLEBEN: Hayes already had issues with Comstock. She feels the representative hasn't held enough town halls. Trump's election, she says, intensified that opposition.

HAYES: I'm trying to make sure that Comstock is not re-elected. I've never done this in a campaign before, but, out canvassing, doing phone banks to make sure that she's not.

KURTZLEBEN: Still, there are people who claim a cleaner separation between national and local politics. Jeff Fox, a 34-year-old who works in IT, isn't conflicted.

JEFF FOX: I'll vote for Barbara Comstock. Her position, her stances tend to line up with mine.

KURTZLEBEN: He also voted for Trump, despite his tepid feelings for him.

FOX: I wouldn't say I really like the guy. If I had my way, I would have, you know, an actual, you know, person with decent character.

KURTZLEBEN: As for the legal troubles surrounding Trump, Fox doesn't see a personal impact. Back at that coffee shop in Purcellville, I asked Lisa Sraders if White House scandals are affecting how she'll vote. She had to think for a while.

LISA SRADERS: I - that's the longest silence I've ever had, I want to tell you right there.

KURTZLEBEN: Sraders, a 54-year-old who works in real estate, says she generally votes for conservatives, and she did vote for Trump. She's also leaning towards Comstock, but a big part of that has nothing to do with the president.

SRADERS: Actually, she did something to help me once. We were trying to get Internet access on our street, and she ended up bringing the Internet down for us.

KURTZLEBEN: Not far outside the coffee shop, Kathy Contreras was waiting for a bus. She's different from all these other residents in that she doesn't plan to vote.

KATHY CONTRERAS: I don't believe my vote is going to count or if my vote is going to make the town or the country get better.

KURTZLEBEN: Which just may make her representative of the state. Less than 37 percent of eligible Virginians voted in the 2014 midterms. Danielle Kurtzleben, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Danielle Kurtzleben is a political correspondent assigned to NPR's Washington Desk. She appears on NPR shows, writes for the web, and is a regular on The NPR Politics Podcast. She is covering the 2020 presidential election, with particular focuses on on economic policy and gender politics.