Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Focus Group Signals Bad News for 2020 Democrats

 

While Washington remains fixated on impeachment, a slow-moving disaster is making its way for the 2020 Democratic field. This morning Axios reported on a small focus group that, in my anecdotal experience, is representative of a lot of American voters the mainstream remains, even years after the 2016 election, blissfully unaware of. Axios reports:

At a focus group in Saginaw, Mich., swing voters who went for President Obama and then flipped to Donald Trump are firmly in Trump’s camp now — and said they’re sick of impeachment, Axios’ Alexi McCammond reports.

  • Why it matters: The two-hour-plus conversation revealed major warning signs for the Democratic Party in a crucial swing county that will be a pivotal area to win in 2020.
  • That was the biggest takeaway from an Engagious/FPG focus group last week, made up of 10 voters who flipped from Obama in 2012 to Trump in 2016.

Why Saginaw matters: Trump won Saginaw County by just over 1% in 2016, and Obama won by nearly 12% in 2012.

  • While a focus group is not a statistically significant sample like a poll, these responses show how some voters are thinking and talking about the 2020 election in crucial counties.

What we found:

  • These voters call impeachment a distraction from issues that would actually improve their lives, like preserving Social Security, cracking down on illegal immigration, and keeping jobs in the U.S.

Between the lines: These voters aren’t sick of Trump’s antics, like other swing voters we’ve talked with for this series. And they don’t feel a sense that things need to get back to “normal” — Trump is their new normal.

  • They have virtually zero trust in the media’s coverage of him.
  • Their support for Trump will grow, they said, even if the country enters a recession or a full-blown trade war with China.
  • And they credit Trump with making health care more affordable, thanks to — they said — his GOP tax law, which some said has saved them more in taxes so they can now reallocate that money to pay for prescription drugs.

Their responses were strikingly at odds with several other groups of Obama/Trump voters we’ve spoken with this year.

  • In past focus groups this year around the upper Midwest, we’ve heard voters say they wish Michelle Obama would run for president, and that they’ve soured on Trump’s personality.
  • But swing voters in our focus groups from Ohio, Iowa and now Michigan have revealed a common disdain for impeachment.

While only two participants said they are definitely voting to re-elect Trump next year, all the voters said they’re not excited by any 2020 Democrats.

None of this is news to readers of Salena Zito’s book (out now in paperback) but it’s still somehow not sinking in for Democrats and the media.

Over the weekend I spent a good deal of time in line at a pharmacy in Ocean County, New Jersey waiting on a prescription for my daughter. A man stood in line wearing a Trump 2020 hat and I complimented his bravery wearing it in such a blue state. The compliment sparked a conversation that spread through the line, and everyone who joined in echoed the remarks of these focus group participants; they were furious with Congress for wasting time and money on a dead-end impeachment. Outside of the man in the hat, nobody seemed thrilled with Trump but as tepid as they were about the President, their negative feelings about his Democratic contenders far surpassed how they felt about the President.

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  1. Jon1979 Lincoln

    Trump’s definitely a ‘contractual’ president — i.e., he may have his group of die-hard supporters, but it’s still nowhere near the cult of personality Obama had. But the swing voters who went to him in 2016 are unlikely to suddenly lurch back to the left, as long as the Trump economy remains strong.

    He’s fulfilling his part of the 2016 campaign bargain, the Democrats seem to be wanting to move well to the left of where Obama ran, even in 2012, and Trump’s persona was in the public spotlight for 38 years before he was elected, so most people have it baked into the equation. They’ll live with the Trump sideshow, if the alternative is a Democrat again wanting to ‘fundamentally change’ the American system, especially at a time when that system seems to be doing pretty good for most of the voters (and a lot of non-elites like pro-wrestling for the theatrics as much as for the actual fighting. WWE veteran participant Donald J. Trump may offend many people, even on the Republican side, by his combative, trash-talking behavior, but a lot of other people find that type of stuff entertaining — or at least non-disqualifying as president, as long as the economy keeps humming along).

    • #1
    • December 16, 2019, at 6:49 AM PST
    • 1 like
  2. Stad Thatcher

    Bethany Mandel: Trump is their new normal.

    Put in terms everyone can understand. And if these people want to keep things normal, they’ll vote for Republican candidates for the House. Otherwise, Trump’s reelection in 2020 will trigger Son of Mueller and Impeachment 2.0 . . .

    • #2
    • December 16, 2019, at 7:09 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  3. MichaelKennedy Coolidge

    The Democrats seem clueless about the lessons of the UK election. Labour was a working man’s party for 70 years but is now a party of urban intellectuals, and university towns. The Democrats have done the same.

    • #3
    • December 16, 2019, at 7:45 AM PST
    • 6 likes
  4. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Stad (View Comment):

    Bethany Mandel: Trump is their new normal.

    Put in terms everyone can understand. And if these people want to keep things normal, they’ll vote for Republican candidates for the House. Otherwise, Trump’s reelection in 2020 will trigger Son of Mueller and Impeachment 2.0 . . .

    I’m hoping Dems have some sense knocked into them with an overwhelming loss, like Labour in the UK. 

    • #4
    • December 16, 2019, at 7:46 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  5. Douglas Pratt Coolidge
    Douglas Pratt Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I still think of Trump as chemo: unpleasant but necessary. Although if I think of judges, he suddenly gets a lot better. Flipping Courts of Appeals is huge, since they rule on thousands of cases that will never get to the Supreme Court.

    • #5
    • December 16, 2019, at 8:00 AM PST
    • 7 likes
  6. danok1 Member

    Stad (View Comment):

    Bethany Mandel: Trump is their new normal.

    Put in terms everyone can understand. And if these people want to keep things normal, they’ll vote for Republican candidates for the House. Otherwise, Trump’s reelection in 2020 will trigger Son of Mueller and Impeachment 2.0 . . .

    As many have said, “All the Democrats had to do was not be insane. And they couldn’t do it.”

    • #6
    • December 16, 2019, at 8:19 AM PST
    • 11 likes
  7. Douglas Pratt Coolidge
    Douglas Pratt Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    danok1 (View Comment):

    Stad (View Comment):

    Bethany Mandel: Trump is their new normal.

    Put in terms everyone can understand. And if these people want to keep things normal, they’ll vote for Republican candidates for the House. Otherwise, Trump’s reelection in 2020 will trigger Son of Mueller and Impeachment 2.0 . . .

    As many have said, “All the Democrats had to do was not be insane. And they couldn’t do it.”

    I think that one can be attributed to the admirable Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit.

    • #7
    • December 16, 2019, at 8:48 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  8. danok1 Member

    Douglas Pratt (View Comment):

    danok1 (View Comment):

    Stad (View Comment):

    Bethany Mandel: Trump is their new normal.

    Put in terms everyone can understand. And if these people want to keep things normal, they’ll vote for Republican candidates for the House. Otherwise, Trump’s reelection in 2020 will trigger Son of Mueller and Impeachment 2.0 . . .

    As many have said, “All the Democrats had to do was not be insane. And they couldn’t do it.”

    I think that one can be attributed to the admirable Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit.

    I’ve heard it from many…now I know the origin! Thanks Douglas

    • #8
    • December 16, 2019, at 9:03 AM PST
    • Like
  9. Roosevelt Guck Inactive

    Ben Shapiro keeps saying that Michelle Obama would win in a landslide. I don’t see it. At best, she can reassemble a coalition that was able to beat McCain and Romney. Trump is a very different opponent.

    • #9
    • December 16, 2019, at 9:28 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  10. Stad Thatcher

    MichaelKennedy (View Comment):

    The Democrats seem clueless about the lessons of the UK election. Labour was a working man’s party for 70 years but is now a party of urban intellectuals, and university towns. The Democrats have done the same.

    Good point. The Dems intentionally abandoned the white working class vote, and I still cannot find that article. I think it was written back in 2010 . . .

    • #10
    • December 16, 2019, at 10:15 AM PST
    • Like
  11. Stad Thatcher

    Western Chauvinist (View Comment):

    Stad (View Comment):

    Bethany Mandel: Trump is their new normal.

    Put in terms everyone can understand. And if these people want to keep things normal, they’ll vote for Republican candidates for the House. Otherwise, Trump’s reelection in 2020 will trigger Son of Mueller and Impeachment 2.0 . . .

    I’m hoping Dems have some sense knocked into them with an overwhelming loss, like Labour in the UK.

    They didn’t in 1994 or 2010.

    • #11
    • December 16, 2019, at 10:15 AM PST
    • Like
  12. Seawriter Contributor

    Western Chauvinist (View Comment):
    I’m hoping Dems have some sense knocked into them with an overwhelming loss, like Labour in the UK. 

    You are an optimist – about both parties. Labour and Democrats never seem to miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

    • #12
    • December 16, 2019, at 11:01 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  13. Jon1979 Lincoln

    Seawriter (View Comment):

    Western Chauvinist (View Comment):
    I’m hoping Dems have some sense knocked into them with an overwhelming loss, like Labour in the UK.

    You are an optimist – about both parties. Labour and Democrats never seem to miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

    Democrats moved left in 1972, after they lost control of the White House in 1968; they moved left in 1984 after losing in ’80; and the moved left in 2004 after losing in 2000. In all three cases, it was because the angry left side of the party thought they lost because their idjut candidate the last time didn’t run as enough of a progressive to win over the voters.

    Biden should have a bit of an advantage here, in being Obama’s VP, but if he manages to win the nomination it will be in spite of and not because of his campaign efforts (and in a mirror of Trump in 2016, he’s benefiting from the non Uncle Joe votes being split for now between several other candidates, virtually all of them running to his left. In a two, or a three-candidate race, he probably loses to the top candidate on the far left side of the field, because the majority of the Democrats’ hardcore base want to run in 2020 as out-and-proud progressives, since they think demographics and the coming wave of woke millennial and GexX voters will assure progressive control of the White House well through the middle of the Century.

    • #13
    • December 16, 2019, at 11:39 AM PST
    • 1 like
  14. Guruforhire Member

    Trump is the president Obama campaigned as. A vaguely center left anti-ideological pragmatist.

    He is a rebuke to Post Tea Party republican overreach, and the predation of the out of control left wing running wild as 46% of the democratic party has exited the american political spectrum stage left post 2012.

    Unless the republicans can develop an agenda to run on, they are boned too.

    A real health care plan at minimum. Trump can’t carry the entire party.

    • #14
    • December 16, 2019, at 12:16 PM PST
    • 1 like
  15. Franco Member
    Franco Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    “None of this is news to readers of Salena Zito’s book (out now in paperback) but it’s still somehow not sinking in for Democrats and the media.”

    The media and Democrats are not trying to understand. They are trying to propagandize. The media are trying to keep those hooked on their existing narratives reading and watching. It’s news as soap opera without having to pay actors and set designers.
    The Democrats are trying desperately to keep their voters alarmed and angry. 

    • #15
    • December 16, 2019, at 12:33 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  16. Richard Easton Member

    I’m thrilled about Trump whereas I was tepid in my support of McCain and Romney in the previous presidential elections. I suspect that we’re more common than people who live in the Beltway might believe (I grew up about a mile outside of the Beltway).

    • #16
    • December 16, 2019, at 3:29 PM PST
    • 6 likes
  17. The Cloaked Gaijin Member

    Bethany Mandel:

    Over the weekend I spent a good deal of time in line at a pharmacy in Ocean County, New Jersey…

    You love and miss New Jersey so much that you moved back? Weird.

     

    • #17
    • December 16, 2019, at 4:21 PM PST
    • Like
  18. Bishop Wash Member

    The Cloaked Gaijin (View Comment):

    Bethany Mandel:

    Over the weekend I spent a good deal of time in line at a pharmacy in Ocean County, New Jersey…

    You love and miss New Jersey so much that you moved back? Weird.

     

    At least she didn’t say ‘on line’ like Klavan and the two Jersey boys on the Sub Beacon do. 

    • #18
    • December 16, 2019, at 6:35 PM PST
    • Like
  19. CarolJoy, Above Top Secret Coolidge

    Roosevelt Guck (View Comment):

    Ben Shapiro keeps saying that Michelle Obama would win in a landslide. I don’t see it. At best, she can reassemble a coalition that was able to beat McCain and Romney. Trump is a very different opponent.

    Michelle Obama, and it hurts me to say this, polled at much higher margins than everyone else in one poll from 2017. She was ahead of Biden, Sanders, Warren and Hillary.

    • #19
    • December 16, 2019, at 9:59 PM PST
    • Like
  20. Franco Member
    Franco Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Roosevelt Guck (View Comment):

    Ben Shapiro keeps saying that Michelle Obama would win in a landslide. I don’t see it. At best, she can reassemble a coalition that was able to beat McCain and Romney. Trump is a very different opponent.

     

    I agree with that, but also…

    Michelle has high favorability because she stays out of politics. She has an underlying contempt for regular Americans, and men, generally, that would become clear after one month of campaigning. She doesn’t have enough political experience to hide it. Black men wouldn’t vote for her either. 

    Another reason I stopped listening to Shapiro. He has intelligence but it’s shallow and naive. 

    • #20
    • December 17, 2019, at 1:49 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  21. Stad Thatcher

    Roosevelt Guck (View Comment):
    Ben Shapiro keeps saying that Michelle Obama would win in a landslide. I don’t see it.

    I don’t see it either. However, I do see polls predicting she’ll beat Trump by thirty points . . .

    • #21
    • December 17, 2019, at 6:10 AM PST
    • Like
  22. Jon1979 Lincoln

    Franco (View Comment):

    Roosevelt Guck (View Comment):

    Ben Shapiro keeps saying that Michelle Obama would win in a landslide. I don’t see it. At best, she can reassemble a coalition that was able to beat McCain and Romney. Trump is a very different opponent.

    I agree with that, but also…

    Michelle has high favorability because she stays out of politics. She has an underlying contempt for regular Americans, and men, generally, that would become clear after one month of campaigning. She doesn’t have enough political experience to hide it. Black men wouldn’t vote for her either.

    Another reason I stopped listening to Shapiro. He has intelligence but it’s shallow and naive.

    Michelle’s one true foray into politics, on the very softest level — her spearheading the efforts to change school breakfast and lunch meuns to make them healthier for students — was a train wreck dumpster fire of a nuclear meltdown of a government program. The top-down federal mandates created lunch programs that filled cafeteria trash cans to overflowing, because the students would not eat the stuff Michelle and her team of experts thought they should eat.

    Unlike Hillary and heath care, the negative blowback on this one was limited to a very small sector of the public, though GenZers who had to deal with that as their breakfast an lunch might not be so excited about Michelle if they learn she was the one trying to feed them that unappealing menu. But for most people it would be just a minor blip on the screen, even if it is a window on how competently a President Obama v2.0 would govern.

    • #22
    • December 17, 2019, at 7:35 AM PST
    • 1 like