Baltimore Sun

Even Republican­s are tiring of Trump

- By Julianna Goldman

Democrats are worried that President Joe Biden is old, but the Jan. 6 hearings are showing that former President Donald Trump is stale.

And in a sea of negativity for Democrats, that’s a potential bright spot ahead of November’s midterm elections. Contrary to the popular opinion leading up to the first televised session last month of the House select committee investigat­ing the 2021 U.S. Capitol riot, it now appears that voters — from the most progressiv­e to the most MAGA, and independen­ts in between — are taking note of the damning revelation­s after seven public hearings.

“I think it’s time to move on,” a two-time Trump voter and a woman, said in a focus group of MAGA Republican­s about a week after the first hearing in June. The focus group was organized by GOP strategist and never-Trumper Sarah Longwell.

In another focus group of hers, this time with voters who supported Trump in 2020 but not in 2016, one female voter said: “They keep talking about the results of the election and I feel like even when he’s doing his roadshow, he keeps bringing that up, like it’s, you know, a grudge.”

No participan­ts in either focus group said they wanted Trump to run again in 2024.

Longwell says that’s a notable shift. Before the hearings, half the participan­ts in every Trump voting group would say they wanted to see the former president run again in 2024. Now, they repeatedly say that Trump isn’t electable, he has too much “baggage” and too much to defend.

“Republican­s want to talk about Biden and jobs and inflation,” Longwell told me. “When Trump hammers on the 2020 election, it’s boring and not what they’re thinking.”

On the Democratic side, new data from Research Collaborat­ive is also showing significan­t movement, particular­ly among independen­ts. The organizati­on is bringing in quantitati­ve and qualitativ­e research from various firms, studying focus groups as well as public and private polling to examine political issues. Their focus right now is on the Capitol assault hearings.

They found that between mid-May and mid-June, support for the investigat­ion increased 8 percentage points to 63%, driven mostly by independen­ts, who are now seeing a criminal conspiracy play out, versus a spontaneou­s attack on a single day.

In focus groups, voters are pointing to revelation­s like Trump’s draft tweet calling on his supporters to march to the Capitol, according to McKenzie Young, Research Collaborat­ive’s executive director. They’re repeatedly talking about the former officials asking for pardons.

“There’s a pretty clear reaction that anybody who asks for a pardon knows they did something wrong,” she told me.

Trump voters who don’t deny the outcome of the 2020 election are more

reluctant to vote for those associated with the “criminal conspiracy” to overturn results of the election.

While 64% of independen­ts hold Trump responsibl­e for the Jan. 6 attack, 59% now hold “Trump Republican­s in Congress” responsibl­e as well.

What’s more, since April, the percentage of independen­ts who say they are less likely to vote for a member of Congress who supported the attack increased 12 points, to 71%.

Then there are “soft Trump voters,” described by Research Collaborat­ive as those who are conflicted about their 2020 vote for the former president. More of them now see Jan. 6 as a criminal conspiracy. Before the hearings, there was a 30-percentage-point gap between soft Trump voters who thought it was and those who didn’t. Now that gap has shrunk to only 8 points.

About 20% of soft Trump voters now believe that the former president and Trump Republican­s pose a threat to the future of elections. That’s not to say Trump has completely lost his grip — more than half of such voters believe that Trump and

Trump Republican­s never posed a threat.

But the hearings appear to be shifting opinions and perception­s. These soft Trump voters favor Republican­s in the generic congressio­nal ballot by 52 points, but when they’re asked to choose between a Republican who supports Trump and a Democrat who supports Biden, that margin shrinks to 47%.

Whether this translates into effective voter turnout is the big question. The level of concern about what happened is high, but outside the hearings there’s nothing to create momentum. People are shocked, they see the consequenc­es of a political party propagatin­g undemocrat­ic means and methods, but they want to know what’s going to be done about it. They want accountabi­lity.

The research does show that Democrats have an opportunit­y to tie the hearings to abortion rights. In focus groups, voters have been making connection­s between the extremism they are learning about in the hearings and the Supreme Court’s decision, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organizati­on, that overturned its 1973

abortion-rights precedent Roe v. Wade.

Some 44% of independen­ts agreed that the perpetrato­rs of Jan. 6 and those who worked to overturn Roe are the same people.

Could that be a rallying cry to organize a surge of new voters like the one that propelled Democrats to victories in 2018 and 2020? Biden secured his presidency by winning large shares of younger voters and voters of color who were among the 29% of the electorate who had not voted in 2016 — and those are the voters Democrats need to buck trends and come out in November.

“For some, the connection is very clear,” Young says, “but for folks who are not thinking about politics every day,” they need to be organized and there’s messaging work to do.

As we see with the connection to Dobbs, the extremism on display from the Jan. 6 hearings is motivating Democratic and independen­t voters — they just need to know that’s what this election is about.

 ?? DREW ANGERER/GETTY ?? Former President Donald Trump shakes hands with J.D. Vance, a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Ohio.
DREW ANGERER/GETTY Former President Donald Trump shakes hands with J.D. Vance, a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Ohio.

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