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Backlash: Ohio Swing Voter Focus Group Raises Red Flags For Impeachment-Focused Democrats

We've analyzed the clear polling shift in favor of an impeachment inquiry into President Trump's actions on Ukraine, with support for outright removal also gaining in a number of public surveys.  Buoyed by these findings, House Democrats have decided to dive headlong into the process, issuing a flurry of subpoenas and conducting a string of sworn interviews-- thus far, largely in private.  This opacity runs the risk of alienating undecided voters, many of whom are likely leery of an impeachment inquiry that operates in an overwhelmingly partisan and secretive manner.  But it's not merely the way in which Adam Schiff and company are conducting their inquiry that poses a political risk; the existence of the inquiry itself, and what it says about Democratic priorities, could turn into a problem for Trump's opposition.  Despite enhanced support for the inquiry, the results of a recent focus group of swing voters in Ohio should serve as a warning sign about overreach and obsession (via Axios):


Swing voters in this Rust Belt state are expressing a range of unease about impeaching President Trump, from fears it will hurt the economy to frustrations that House Democrats are more invested in going after Trump than in helping people...We heard from 8 voters who flipped from Barack Obama in 2012 to Trump in 2016, and 3 who switched from Mitt Romney to Hillary Clinton...Nine of the 11 participants raised their hands to say impeachment is a distraction from the issues they care most about — things like wages and unemployment, border security, bringing troops home, and health care costs and access...When asked how impeachment made them feel, these voters offered things like "concerned," "uneasy," "exhausted," "sad that they’re [Democrats] so focused on it," and "a big distraction from what we could be doing."


Interestingly, among this group, most remain undecided about how they'll vote in 2020: "Only four of the participants said they will definitely vote for Trump again; one former Trump voter said he will vote for Andrew Yang; one Clinton voter, Lisa A., said she's leaning toward Elizabeth Warren; and the rest are undecided." This is a good illustration of why fixating on hypothetical head-to-head polling at this stage of the campaign is an exercise in futility. Many of the key voters who will decide the election have not made up their minds, and likely won't for some time.  And here's another cautionary note, courtesy of a new scientific poll:

'Deserves impeachment' slightly outperforms 'doesn't deserve impeachment,' but one-in-five voters isn't sure yet, based on the available information.  This suggests that process could, in fact, matter quite a lot in terms of shaping public sentiment.  If Democrats undertake a shoddy or unfair inquiry, they risk turning off people who are taking a wait-and-see approach to all of this -- and as I postulated in my tweet, I'd guess there's a fair amount of overlap between the sorts of voters who joined the Ohio focus group and the 20 percent who responded "too soon to say" to CBS' poll.  


A few more notes from the numbers: (1) A slight majority of independents (47/53) oppose the inquiry, (2) a supermajority (71 percent) believe Trump's request of the Ukrainians was either improper or illegal, as opposed to proper (29 percent). and (3) a strong majority (63/37) want the White House to cooperate with House Democrats on their probe.  So just as there are a number of red flags in this data for the Resistance, the findings also demonstrate the inherent risks in Trump claiming his actions were "perfect," and the administration's stonewalling efforts.  I'll leave you with this:


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