RACINE, Wis. (AP) – Thereâ€™s 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 arenâ€™t moving the needle.
â€œEverything they say, itâ€™s so repetitive. To me, itâ€™s like theyâ€™re beating their heads against the wall,â€ 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 canâ€™t see herself voting for Trump in 2020, had a similar review.
â€œThereâ€™s so much information that sometimes itâ€™s hard to decide which is the truth and which is just rumors,â€ she said. â€œSo I just donâ€™t pay attention to it.â€
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 arenâ€™t changing their minds about removing the Republican president. If they came into the inquiry defensive of Trump, they likely still are. And if they were inclined to think the president abused his power, they didnâ€™t need televised hearings to prove it.
â€œFor the most part, most Americans already have pretty solidified views of the president,â€ said Josh Schwerin, senior strategist for the Democratic super PAC Priorities USA. â€œThereâ€™s a small segment of the population that can be moved, and theyâ€™re not paying as close attention to the day-to-day ins and outs of the impeachment hearings.â€
Itâ€™s a disappointing – if not unexpected – response for Democrats, who had hoped to use the hearings to sway public opinion. Without that backing, itâ€™s virtually impossible to imagine Republican senators voting to convict Trump.
Itâ€™s 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 impeachment and Senate trial may ultimately play little role in Trumpâ€™s reelection bid next year.
Two polls released this week showed the public remains roughly evenly divided over whether 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% of Americans believe Trump should be impeached and removed from office, roughly the same as in late October and in late September. Meanwhile, Trumpâ€™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 Trump should be impeached and removed, and just 13% of those who have an opinion say they might change their mind.
In Wisconsin, views on impeachment appear to be slightly more negative. A Marquette University Law School poll of Wisconsin registered voters that was conducted during the first week of the impeachment hearings showed 47% of registered voters approve of the job Trump is doing, and more expressed opposition than support for impeachment and removal, 53% to 40%, figures largely unchanged from October.
The poll was conducted before U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland and former top aide Fiona Hill offered testimony that largely corroborated allegations that Trump tried to pressure a foreign government into investigating his political rival Joe Biden.
The entrenched divisions are clear even in Racine County, a place with a history of shifting political winds. The county voted for Democrat Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, and then swung to support 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 countyâ€™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, theyâ€™ll have to persuade voters like Jo-Ann Knutson to come back. The 70-year-old retiree lives in downtown Racine and voted for Trump in 2016 because she didnâ€™t like Democrat Hillary Clinton. Sheâ€™s been watching the impeachment hearings, but sheâ€™s still not sure what to think.
Trump â€œis not my favorite person, and I donâ€™t care for how he talks about people, but I have not made a firm decision because I donâ€™t think all of the facts are out yet,â€ she said.
Knutson remembered watching the impeachment proceedings for President Richard Nixon, when she said â€œyou were sureâ€ because there were taped recordings and other firsthand evidence of wrongdoing. Now, she thinks Democratsâ€™ case is based on overheard conversations – and she believes thereâ€™s still a possibility Trump could be exonerated, she said.
Knutson said she has â€œno clueâ€ who sheâ€™ll vote for next year.
Morrison, the nurse, also says sheâ€™s undecided, though she typically leans Democratic. Impeachment isnâ€™t swaying her, though, because she says she canâ€™t trust what she hears about the president anymore.
â€œI feel like weâ€™ve been hearing since the second that he was elected president he needs to be impeached,â€ she said. â€œSo why waste my time to listen to it?â€
Democrats will also have to reach some of their key constituencies that stayed home in 2016 – minorities and young voters. And thereâ€™s some sign in Racine that the impeachment proceedings could have the opposite effect, if they further cement a sense of disillusionment with Washington.
Darius Nunn, the 40-year-old owner of Clarity Cutz, a barbershop that largely serves the cityâ€™s black community, sometimes puts the news on the television in his shop, â€œbut when it begins to get heated, we turn on some basketball.â€
On a recent day, the barbershopâ€™s TV showed a Chris Brown concert. Nunn said his clients are interested in whatâ€™s going on in Washington but doubtful that Trump will experience any consequences for his actions – and he could see them staying home again next November.
â€œA lot of people (in 2016), they didnâ€™t have any faith in the voting system,â€ he said. â€œTo the urban community … the disenfranchised people, they donâ€™t believe in the system at all. Thereâ€™s justice for few when there should be justice for all.â€
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. Several Republicans across Racine County said that though they didnâ€™t like Trumpâ€™s tone and were tired of the controversies, they were happy with the economy – and expected nothing less from the president to begin with.
â€œHeâ€™s probably guilty of something. â€¦ I thought he might run into problems because itâ€™s just the way he is,â€ said Scott Davis, a 67-year-old landscaper from Sturtevant, a manufacturing town thatâ€™s a key base for Republican votes in the county.
But Davis said his business has flourished, and he lauded Trumpâ€™s handling of the economy. Controversies or not, Davis said he sees no reason not to support the president in 2020.
â€œIn a lot of ways, (Trumpâ€™s) not suited to be president, but heâ€™s done a lot of good for the country,â€ Davis said. â€œI would probably vote for him again, just because of the economy.â€
David Titus, a 68-year-old retired banker from just outside Racine, said Trump â€œruns his mouth too much,â€ but heâ€™s still satisfied with the presidentâ€™s performance.
â€œI like what heâ€™s done. I donâ€™t like the way heâ€™s doing it,â€ he said.
Titus predicted, however, that the impeachment proceedings could backfire. He said heâ€™s heard from others who are fed up of the fighting and just want the president to be allowed to do his job.
â€œI think the longer it goes, the worse it gets for the Democrats,â€ he said.