According to the head of a research firm that specializes in political messaging, the Republican Party is going to be facing major problems bringing swing voters back into the fold before the 2022 midterm election -- and it's not entirely based upon their disgust with Donald Trump.
In a column for The Bulwark, Rich Thau, co-founder of Engagious explained that Donald Trump was able to win the presidential election in 2016 by getting his message through to a segment of voters who aren't lockstep members of the party they claim to be a part of when they register to vote.
While the Morning Consultant reported that Trump emerged from his second impeachment trial relatively"unscathed" with hardcore Republicans still supporting him -- "(54 percent) said they would support Trump in a hypothetical 2024 presidential primary election" -- Thau noted that swing voters are the ones who, literally, swing close elections.
According to Thau, when he held focus groups from March 2019 through November 2020 and posed the question, "If Obama and Trump were running against each other in the 2020 election, which one would you vote for?" the majority overwhelmingly chose Trump. However, something changed in December after Trump lost and Thau said respondents -- including some who identify as Republicans -- want nothing to do with the party which should worry GOP leaders Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA).
"I asked the 'Trump-Biden' respondents to look backward in order to look forward. On February 9, in a pair of online focus groups, I posed this question to seven men and seven women: 'Imagine you were 18 years old again and registering to vote for the first time. Watching the current political scene, would you register as a Democrat, Republican, or Independent?'" he wrote. "Among these 14 'Trump-Biden' respondents, eight are currently registered as Republicans. And the key point that should command the GOP's attention is this: Only one of these eight would choose to be a Republican if he could magically return to age 18 and re-register."
According to one member of the focus group, the moderate policies and demeanor of newly-elected President Joe Biden influenced their change of heart.
"I've been Republican my whole life, and my father has too. I was raised that way—up until this last [election]. And I just think that party [the Democrats], I guess before, it seemed like it was…more liberal than I wanted to be," explained 51-year-old Danna who lives in Arizona. "But it seems like with Biden in place…he sticks to his party—but he's trying to outreach to everyone and just trying to be unified and obviously bipartisan. But he just seems to be out for the good for everybody. He's open and empathetic to what everybody needs."
Dixie, a 39-year-old from Michigan, did say Trump made her flip, stating, "Trump made a mockery of Republicans, and that's why I would register as a Democrat," she explained before admitting she would never consider voting for the ousted ex-president if he ran again.
Thau noted one interesting takeaway from the panel: some swing voters would consider a Republican candidate under certain circumstances.
"If there's any silver lining for the GOP, it's something I uncovered in our prior month's focus groups. Most 'Trump-Biden' voters we interviewed on January 21 are willing to consider Republican congressional candidates in 2022. They will not let Trump's negative halo cast a shadow over everyone with an 'R' after his or her name. These voters say they will judge the person on his or her merits, not by party affiliation, " he wrote before adding, "This suggests that the most successful Republican candidates in swing states next year will be those who distance themselves the furthest from their own party."
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