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Impeachment Fight Has Voters Asking: Who Can I Trust?

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Impeachment Fight Has Voters Asking: Who Can I Trust?

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RACINE, Wisconsin (AP) – There is not a lot that Republicans and Democrats in this political battlefield agree on, but the impeachment probe into President Donald Trump may have surfaced one: The public hearings are not moving the needle.

“Everything they say, it’s so repetitive. To me, it’s like they’re beating their heads against the wall,” said Harry Rose, a 78-year-old retired factory worker and Trump supporter in Racine County, a swing county in the swing state of Wisconsin.

Nicole Morrison, a 36-year-old nurse who cannot see herself voting for Trump in 2020, had a similar review.

“There’s so much information that sometimes it’s hard to decide which is the truth and which is just rumors,” she said. “So I just don’t pay attention to it.”

After 30 hours of televised hearings, a dozen witnesses, at least a couple of major revelations and scores of tweeted rebuttals, voters in Wisconsin and nationwide are not changing their minds about removing the Republican president. If they came into the inquiry defensive of Mr. Trump, they likely still are. And if they were inclined to think the president abused his power, they did not need televised hearings to prove it.

“For the most part, most Americans already have pretty solidified views of the president,” said Josh Schwerin, senior strategist for the Democratic super PAC Priorities USA. “There’s a small segment of the population that can be moved, and they’re not paying as close attention to the day-to-day ins and outs of the impeachment hearings.”

It is a disappointing—if not unexpected—response for Democrats, who had hoped to use the hearings to sway public opinion. Without that backing, it is virtually impossible to imagine Republican senators voting to convict Mr. Trump.

It is also a reaction that leaves the political impact of this dramatic chapter in American history remarkably uncertain. If the division on the question holds, and independents remain disengaged, it is possible that the impeachment and Senate trial may ultimately play little role in Mr. Trump’s reelection bid next year.

Two polls released this week showed the public remains roughly evenly divided over whether Mr. Trump should be impeached and removed from office. Although there was a one-time increase in support after the inquiry launched, polls have since remained stable.

A CNN survey conducted over the weekend showed that 50 percent of Americans believe Mr. Trump should be impeached and removed from office, roughly the same as in late October and in late September. Meanwhile, Mr. Trump’s job approval has remained steady. A Quinnipiac University survey of registered voters nationwide also conducted this past weekend found a similar split on whether Mr. Trump should be impeached and removed, and just 13 percent of those who have an opinion say they might change their mind.

The entrenched divisions are clear in Wisconsin. Racine County, a place with a history of shifting political winds, voted for Democrat Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 and then swung to support Mr. Trump in 2016.

The county, just south of Milwaukee, is divided between the Democratic-leaning electorate in and surrounding Racine, and the more conservative electorate in the rural and suburban areas. Most of the county’s residents worked white-collar jobs in 2019, like administrative services and sales, and the median household income was just under $65,000, slightly above the state average.

If Democrats hope to win it back, they will have to persuade voters like Jo-Ann Knutson to come back. The 70-year-old retiree lives in downtown Racine and voted for Mr. Trump in 2016 because she did not like Democrat Hillary Clinton. She has been watching the impeachment hearings, but she is still not sure what to think.

Mr. Trump “is not my favorite person, and I don’t care for how he talks about people, but I have not made a firm decision because I don’t think all of the facts are out yet,” she said.

Ms. Knutson remembered watching the impeachment proceedings for President Richard Nixon, when she said “you were sure” because there were taped recordings and other firsthand evidence of wrongdoing. Now, she thinks Democrats’ case is based on overheard conversations—and she believes there is still a possibility Mr. Trump could be exonerated, she said.

Knutson said she has “no clue” who she will vote for next year.

Ms. Morrison, the nurse, also says she is undecided, though she typically leans Democratic. Impeachment is not swaying her, though, because she says she cannot trust what she hears about the president anymore.

“I feel like we’ve been hearing since the second that he was elected president he needs to be impeached,” she said. “So why waste my time to listen to it?”

Republicans, meanwhile, will need to maintain their coalition of white working-class voters and suburban moderates to hold onto a swing state like Wisconsin. That means persuading those voters to focus on the economy.

There are signs of success for Republicans on that front. David Titus, a 68-year-old retired banker from just outside Racine, said Mr. Trump “runs his mouth too much,” but he is still satisfied with the president’s performance.

“I like what he’s done. I don’t like the way he’s doing it,” he said.

Mr. Titus predicted, however, that the impeachment proceedings could backfire. He said he has heard from others who are fed up of the fighting and just want the president to be allowed to do his job.

“I think the longer it goes, the worse it gets for the Democrats,” he said.

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