AP

Anxious and wary, voters buckle up for impeachment ride

Sep 26, 2019, 2:56 PM
Killian Doughney, shown Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2019 in Tallahassee, Fla. is an independent voter in t...
Killian Doughney, shown Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2019 in Tallahassee, Fla. is an independent voter in the politically crucial state of Florida and is withholding judgment on whether President Trump’s call with the Ukrainian president is an impeachable offense. “Whatever impeachable offense they say he committed has to be crystal clear,” he says. House Democrats are charging toward impeachment, bringing millions of wary voters for the ride at considerable political risk. The Associated Press interviewed more than 50 voters across nine states, largely in congressional districts held by freshman Democrats on the frontline of the fight. The responses _ ranging from frustration, sadness, anxiety and relief _ illustrate the challenges Democrats face (AP Photo/Bobby Caina Calvan)
(AP Photo/Bobby Caina Calvan)

EXTON, Pa. (AP) — Evie Burt has long thought Donald Trump deserved impeachment, even before the allegations that the president tried to squeeze a foreign leader for damaging information about a political opponent. But that doesn’t mean Burt, a 23-year-old independent in this wealthy Philadelphia suburb, is pleased with Democrats’ accelerated push to accomplish that.

What about climate change and gun control, she said as she walked into a grocery store and bemoaned the “media circus” on the horizon. “The whole process of it takes away from important issues.”

House Democrats move ahead

At considerable political risk, House Democrats are charging ahead with impeachment, bringing along millions of wary voters such as Burt for the ride. Polling has consistently shown that a majority of Americans opposed impeachment, and congressional Democrats did not wait for a fresh batch of surveys that would register the impact of revelations about Trump’s effort to push Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden.

In the days since the news that has propelled the impeachment debate, The Associated Press interviewed more than 50 voters across nine states, largely in congressional districts held by freshman Democrats on the front line of the fight. The responses — ranging from frustration and sadness to anxiety and relief — point to the challenges Democrats face if they are to turn what they describe as a principled stand against corruption to their political advantage.

Voices from the voters

Republicans overwhelmingly opposed the step toward impeachment and say the development is a political ploy. Democrats and independents were not nearly as unified. Many expressed certainty that the president has committed impeachable offenses. But they also were deeply skeptical about the wisdom of moving ahead now, worrying it would only serve to fire up Trump supporters. The best way to unseat Trump was at the ballot box, they said. Others fretted about the distraction that impeachment would cause.

“I don’t think impeachment is meaningless, but I don’t think it’s possible, so why try it?” said Agnes Anderson, a retired businesswoman and school teacher in suburban Chicago. With the Republican-controlled Senate unlikely to convict Trump and remove him from office if the Democratic-run House had voted to impeach, “I’m not sure we’re going to change any minds. So why go there and run the chance of Trump picking up more support?”

Agnes and her husband, John Anderson, live in a district that swung to Democratic Rep. Sean Casten last year. The Andersons talk regularly with a politically diverse group of neighbors and say they haven’t sensed any shift on impeachment this week. It’s an issue they’ve thought about for months. The Andersons attended an impeachment town hall held by Casten, who came out for impeachment this summer, but came away unconvinced.

Pollsters weigh in

This squeamishness is one reason that impeachment has been off the table for party leaders, until now. The political future for many Democrats may depend on whether they can bring along these voters.

“There’s about 15% of the American public who disapprove of the job Trump is doing as president but disapprove of impeachment,” said Whit Ayres, a GOP pollster. “If people are going to change their minds about impeachment, those are the ones most likely to move.”

Some Democrats approve

Many Democrats in these pockets celebrated House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s decision to initiate an impeachment inquiry, if cautiously.

Mayra Espinoza, 48, said she wants Trump out of office. She hopes impeachment can do the trick after being disappointed that the Russia investigation seemed to end in a fizzle. “Nothing happened,” she complained as she shopped at a Wal-Mart in the Denver suburbs. “Hopefully they can get a new case and get to the bottom of it this time.”

Others described an almost cathartic joy of seeing leading Democrats stand up to an opponent who has appeared invincible.

“We need to step it up,” said Matt Muehlheim-Peterson, a 38-year-old Democrat in Burnsville, Minnesota, a spring in his step as he walked down his driveway to fetch his mail this week. He said he hopes the move will help rally Democrats next year. “We need some fire in the belly.”

Some voters want more

Among those needing to step it up, he said, was his congresswoman, Rep. Angie Craig, a Democrat who ousted a GOP incumbent in a district Trump narrowly won two years earlier. This week, Craig was among a group of freshman Democrats who announced they were moving toward backing an impeachment proceeding — news that helped push Pelosi ahead. Others included Chrissy Houlahan of Pennsylvania, Elaine Luria and Abigail Spanberger of Virginia, and Elissa Slotkin of Michigan. Those lawmakers cited national security concerns, not politics, as driving their decision.

Some voters want less

The Democrats’ peril was illustrated in interviews in Slotkin’s district, a mix of comfortable suburbs and rural areas that cut through Trump territory in Michigan. The district has plenty of Trump defenders such as Republican Joe Chila, 85, of Rochester, who called the news “terrible.” He said he voted for Democrat Barack Obama in 2008 but has voted Republican since.

“The Democrats lost the election in 2016 and they still can’t get over it,” he said, adding that Democrats should be working with Trump on gun control rather than trying to impeach him.
Some voters in the district who have favored Democrats were ambivalent. Scott Burns, 38, said he didn’t vote for Trump or Hillary Clinton in 2016 but backed Slotkin last year. “There’s no such thing as bad publicity for him,” Burns said of Trump, warning the tactic would backfire on Democrats. “If that’s your strategy — to make it worse — it’s not going to work.”

That illustrates a phenomenon that comes up in focus groups on the topic, says Kevin Mack, chief strategist of the liberal group Need to Impeach. Skeptics often oppose impeachment for tactical, rather than substantive reasons.

“If there’s an actual vote that’s taking place, with actual facts, we think they’ll come around on it and stop acting like political prognosticators and start acting like American citizens,” Mack said.

Independents weigh in

Ron Smith, a 48-year-old independent who works in IT and lives in Craig’s district, will be listening. He doesn’t trust either party’s motives and said he didn’t vote for Trump or Clinton in 2016.

The outcome of the investigation may sway his vote in 2020, he said. “I just need to know more facts. People who have their minds made up are basing that on emotion or just not appreciating the other side.”

Nearby, Yon Thomand, a 47-year-old health coordinator at a nursing home, was less ambivalent. Stopping for bagels at a coffee shop, she said Trump should be impeached. “You want a president who represents America, respects people, respects the law.”

In Tallahassee, Florida, Killian Doughney agreed. One of the state’s 3.6 million independent voters, Doughney says he did not vote for Trump, but he does believe the president has done good things for the economy and views him more favorably now. He’s withholding judgment on whether Trump’s call with Ukraine’s president was improper.

“Whatever impeachable offense they say he committed has to be crystal clear. It needs to be clear enough to solidify it in the minds of the public,” he said. “Because with this guy nothing really sticks.”
__
Riccardi reported from Centennial, Colorado and Hennessey from Burnsville, Minnesota. Associated Press writers Alan Suderman in Goochland, Virginia, Benjamin Nadler in Roswell, Georgia, Bobby Caina Calvan in Tallahassee, Florida, Ed White in Rochester, Michigan, Sara Burnett in Chicago and Carrie Antlfinger in Milwaukee, Wisconsin contributed to this report.
___
This story has been corrected to reflect that the name of the Minnesota city where Matt Muehlheim-Peterson was interviewed is Burnsville, not Burnside.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Today’s Top Stories

AP

A woman sits on the rubble as emergency rescue teams search for people under the remains of destroy...
MEHMET GUZEL, GHAITH ALSAYED and SUZAN FRASER

Race to find survivors as earthquake aid pours into Turkey, Syria

The death toll has risen to above 5,300. Monday's quake and strong aftershocks hit hundreds of kilometers across southeastern Turkey and neighboring Syria.
1 day ago
quit their jobs...
PAUL WISEMAN AP Economics Writer

US added a strong 517,000 jobs in January despite Fed hikes

The Fed is aiming to achieve a "soft landing" — a pullback in the economy that is enough to tame high inflation without triggering recession.
5 days ago
Thousands of fraudulent nursing diplomas  were dispersed in Florida. (Canva)...
Associated Press via Miami Herald

Fake nursing diploma scheme in Florida; 25 arrested

The defendants each face up to 20 years in prison.
6 days ago
Microsoft is cutting 10,000 workers, almost 5% of its workforce, in response to "macroeconomic cond...
MATT O'BRIEN, Associated Press

Job cuts in tech sector spread, Microsoft lays off 10,000

Microsoft said in a regulatory filing Wednesday that had just notified employees of the layoffs, some of which begin immediately.
21 days ago
exxon mobil sign pictured...
SETH BORENSTEIN and CATHY BUSSEWITZ Associated Press

Study: Exxon Mobil accurately predicted warming since 1970s

Exxon said its understanding of climate change evolved over the years and that critics are misunderstanding its earlier research.
27 days ago
FILE - Protesters, supporters of Brazil's former President Jair Bolsonaro, stand on the roof of the...
The Associated Press

Brazil and Jan. 6 in US: Parallel attacks, but not identical

RIO DE JANIERO, Brazil — Enraged protesters broke into government buildings that are the very symbol of their country’s democracy. Driven by conspiracy theories about their candidate’s loss in the last election, they smashed windows, sifted through the desks of lawmakers and trashed the highest offices in the land in a rampage that lasted hours […]
29 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Skier being towed by a rider on a horse. Skijoring....
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Looking for a New Winter Activity? Try Skijoring in Bear Lake

This article about skijoring is sponsored by the Bear Lake Convention & Visitors Bureau. Participate in Skijoring the Bear on February 20th, 2023.  What is skijoring? Skijoring is when someone on skis is pulled by a horse, dog, animal, or motor vehicle. The driver leads the skiers through an obstacle course over jumps, hoops, and […]
Banner with Cervical Cancer Awareness Realistic Ribbon...
Intermountain Health

Five Common Causes of Cervical Cancer – and What You Can Do to Lower Your Risk

January is National Cervical Cancer Awareness month and cancer experts at Intermountain Health are working to educate women about cervical cancer, the tests that can warn women about potential cancer, and the importance of vaccination.
Kid holding a cisco fish at winterfest...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Get Ready for Fun at the 2023 Bear Lake Monster Winterfest

The Bear Lake Monster Winterfest is an annual weekend event jam-packed full of fun activities the whole family can enjoy. This year the event will be held from January 27-29 at the Utah Bear Lake State Park Marina and Sunrise Resort and Event Center in Garden City, Utah. 
happy friends with sparklers at christmas dinner...
Macey's

15 Easy Christmas Dinner Ideas

We’ve scoured the web for you and narrowed down a few of our favorite Christmas dinner ideas to make your planning easy. Choose from the dishes we’ve highlighted to plan your meal or start brainstorming your own meal plan a couple of weeks before to make sure you have time to shop and prepare.
Spicy Homemade Loaded Taters Tots...
Macey's

5 Game Day Snacks for the Whole Family (with recipes!)

Try these game day snacks to make watching football at home with your family feel like a special occasion. 
Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...
Sorenson

The Best Tools for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Workplace Success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Anxious and wary, voters buckle up for impeachment ride