AUBURN, Maine — National polls show former vice president Joe Biden leading President Trump by as much as 11 points. The Democratic standard-bearer is ahead in crucial swing states like Wisconsin and Arizona. Signs abound that voters who didn’t show up four years ago are turning out in droves to vote blue.
None of it can dull the anxiety squeezing the hearts of Democratic voters, haunted by memories of 2016 and an election night that dashed their expectations and delivered Donald Trump to the White House.
“I’m afraid that Trump is going to be reelected,” said Aimee King, 59, of Auburn, part of the state’s vast rural Second Congressional District, which Trump carried in 2016 to claim a single electoral vote. “There are Trump signs and bumper stickers everywhere here, and it scares me. I just don’t trust these polls because of what’s happened in the past.”
Out for a walk Saturday with Squeaky, a Jack Russell dog dressed as a dinosaur, King said she is voting for Biden. So did several parents who attended a nearby Halloween gathering for hundreds of costumed children on the banks of the Androscoggin River.
But they, too, admitted feeling spooked, and not by the small skeletons, witches, and Grim Reapers romping in the park around them.
“I think we’re going to have another four years of the same president,” said Mallory Morneau, 26, of Auburn, who is supporting Biden. “I just feel like I’ve seen a trend that way. I didn’t think it was even an option the last time, and then I woke up the next morning and was shocked.”
While Biden backers fret, Trump supporters in New England’s battleground states expressed confidence that their candidate would prevail, undeterred by surveys that have shown Biden up an average of four points in Maine’s second district, and even 11 points in New Hampshire, where Hillary Clinton won by fewer than 3,000 votes in 2016.
Kris Rousseau, 41, of Lewiston, praised Trump’s fearlessness, and said she’s not sure she trusts the polls.
“I don’t trust the media, either,” Rousseau said. “You never hear anything good about Trump. I haven’t voted for years, but this time, I’m determined.”
In Nashua, where about 40 Trump supporters and volunteers gathered Sunday at a former downtown bank turned field office, Rosalie Lozupone, 65, said she believes there are far more supporters of the president than those captured in polls or even willing to display signs outside their home.
She recounted how one day in 2016 she pulled up to her home only to see a young woman snatching the Trump sign from her lawn. Undeterred, Lozupone said she now keeps her signage closer to her home.
“He’s going to win, baby," she said.
For uneasy Biden supporters, many are coping by throwing themselves into campaign work, writing postcards to swing state voters, signing up for canvassing or phone bank shifts.
“I feel like our democracy is really on the line,” Laura Moon, 54, of Weston, Mass., said Sunday as she stood outside the New Hampshire Democratic Party’s “voter activation center” in Manchester, a nondescript storefront situated between a bead store and a Chinese restaurant.
In her hand, Moon held a stack of door-hangers reminding voters to back the Democratic slate of candidates on Tuesday.
Many of her friends are channeling their nervous energy in similar ways, Moon said. A text chain involving friends from California the day before revealed that almost every person on it was either texting, writing post cards, or making calls for Biden, she said.
The stakes feel particularly high for Richard House, another volunteer at the Sunday canvassing launch for Biden.
“I started this, and now I’m trying to fix what I contributed to,” said the 59-year-old self-described “recovering Republican” who voted for Trump four years ago.
House started to doubt his choice when Trump began attacking the media and former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick for kneeling during the national anthem as a protest against racial injustice. The administration’s mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic pushed House over the edge.
“When that exploded, I said, ‘This is stupid. This guy’s a nut. He’s not doing what he needs to be doing,' ” said House.
But he said he’s still nervous. “I just think he’s going to do something really sleazy, you know? And he’s got [Attorney General] Bill Barr and all his henchmen, I’ll call 'em," said House, speaking through a mask decorated with dancing cats. "I just really think they’re going to do everything to take away my vote.”
The worry and fear and desperation for this all to just be over already, please, extends beyond the highly-engaged portion of the Democratic electorate.
Outside a Market Basket in Manchester, N.H., on Sunday, voters of various stripes expressed similar sentiments. Mark, a Marine veteran who did not want to share his last name, told a reporter he didn’t plan to vote for either presidential candidate, despite being a lifelong Republican.
When the reporter asked why, a woman, passing on her way into the store, replied for him: “Because it’s a s---show." She did not stop to elaborate, but Mark echoed her sentiment.
Another shopper, Ushelia Mcmillan, said she plans to vote Tuesday but remains undecided on which presidential candidate to support.
“I feel like Trump is a mean person. I just want a nice — I know it’s not going to happen but, you know, like a nice president who actually cares about people,” said Mcmillan.
“I try to like him,” she said of Trump. “I do like Biden,” she continued. “I mean, I don’t know if it’s real.”
It’s a choice that’s leaving her feeling anxious, too.
“I don’t want the wrong thing to happen,” said the 37-year-old mother of four. Two of her three adult children are just moving out on their own. “I just want them to have a decent life.”
It’s a similar feeling among Trump supporters wary of what a Biden administration would bring. Speaking at the Trump Victory field office in Nashua, Steve Negron — who’s challenging US Representative Annie Kuster, the Democratic incumbent — said all Republicans want are to work, “take care of our families,” and live in a country that each day is better “than the one that we left the day before.”
“And they want to take that from us,” he said of Democrats. "They’ll tell you we’re the party who wants to drown puppies. All of that is rhetoric.
“When I spoke at the Trump rally a week and a half ago, I looked at that crowd, and said, ‘You know, these are the people who don’t get polled,’ ” said Negron, who Trump endorsed in a tweet on Saturday. “You can’t quantify what’s happening there. Just look at all the rallies.”
But not every Trump supporter was projecting such certainty. Jack Balcom, a 71-year-old former state representative who is again seeking a New Hampshire House seat, said he’s “hopeful” Trump will win but wasn’t willing to make a prediction.
The Merrimack resident is waiting until Tuesday to cast his vote for Trump, saying there’s always the possibility of a late-breaking November surprise.
“Anything,” he said, “can happen on Election Day.”
Victoria McGrane can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @vgmac. Matt Stout can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @mattpstout. Brian MacQuarrie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.