How ‘Double Haters’ Are Reacting to Trump’s Conviction

The day after former President Donald Trump was convicted of 34 felonies, I sat down for a focus group with nine voters from across the country who voted for him twice and don’t want to vote for him again. They are not, however, all committed to voting for President Joe Biden instead.

These are the “double haters”: the chunk of voters who are dissatisfied with both candidates, and are trying to decide which one is less bad. Although many of them are “out” on Trump, they’re struggling to get there on Biden. If Biden is going to win in November, these are the voters he must persuade to hold their noses and vote for him.

And there’s reason to believe that Trump’s recent felony conviction just made it a little bit easier for them to do it.

Many of the voters in this group had familiar stories: They supported Trump in the past as “the lesser evil.” They couldn’t stomach Hillary Clinton in 2016. They were lifelong Republicans who couldn’t imagine voting for a Democrat. Some of them remember watching The Apprentice and admiring Trump for his perceived business savvy.

But the events of January 6 and general fatigue with Trump’s antics have made these voters “not very likely” or “not at all likely” to vote for him again in 2024.

“I made my mind up quite a while ago that I wouldn’t vote for him,” Alex from Illinois said. “I just said, I can’t bring myself to do it.”

Chuck from Ohio agreed: “There’s no change in my desire to vote for Mr. Trump.” He continued: “I’m not voting for the man, period, end of discussion.”

For many of these people, Trump had already crossed a red line. His conviction is just more evidence of his deficient character and his unfitness for high office.

And his lack of remorse was another log on the fire. “There’s no ownership whatsoever. It’s always someone else’s fault,” Eileen from Illinois said.

Michele from Florida said, “I want criminals to go to jail.” That extends not just to Trump, but to Democrats like Senator Bob Menendez, she said.

Many talked about being repelled by Trump’s disrespect for institutions. Some said they believed the trial was “politicized,” a con job brought by “Biden’s DOJ.” And yet, most had faith in the process. While allowing for some political bias in the system, by and large they accepted the legitimacy of the guilty verdict.

“I thought the trial was highly politicized, but in the hands of the jury, both sides had the chance to present their case,” Ryan from Colorado said. “And that’s ultimately how it should have been done.”

Michele agreed: “I’m tired of the nonsense, and I believed the testimony. And that is why I am happy that the jury found him guilty. And I think now that he is a convicted felon, he’s completely unfit.”

They may not be Trump voters anymore, but many of them are not fans of Biden.

When asked to grade Biden’s performance, three gave C’s, three gave D’s, and three gave F’s. Only one admitted to ever voting for a Democrat, and Alex, the Illinoisian, said flatly: “I will never vote for, probably, a Democrat in my life.”

Their complaints with Biden ran the spectrum: “Stop giving away free money,” Ryan said. Chuck wants to see Kamala Harris replaced as vice president—he thinks Liz Cheney would be better. One said Hunter Biden’s conduct speaks poorly to Biden’s parenting skills.

Some of them are third-party curious, but they’re wary because, as one said, “I view any third-party candidate as kind of a vote for Trump.” When asked how they would vote if the election were held today, only two said they would vote third-party. One said they would abstain, and another would write in a candidate.

The remaining five plan on voting for Biden. This isn’t because they are fans of the president. Few had positive things to say about Biden’s policy agenda. But they view him as the more palatable of two bad options.

As Chuck put it: “I don’t like Mr. Biden because I’m concerned about his age. He may die in office and I think his vice president is not someone I want in the Oval Office either. But between the president and vice president, they’re still both better than Mr. Trump.”

Spending 90 minutes with this group helps explain how the double haters are thinking about this race. They’re not all united ideologically, but they’re united in trusting the judicial system over Trump—at least for now.

These voters don’t speak for the majority; as swing voters, they’re marginal. But the margins will decide this race. The conviction confirmed what many of them already knew: Trump is unfit for office.

Whether or not voters like this “go home” to Trump or choose to support Biden over the next five months will be a big factor in deciding the election. A lot of variables are involved: whether Trump’s daily chaos starts to make more of an impression; Biden’s performance in the debates; prices and interest rates; the salience of issues such as immigration and abortion; and what Trump’s sentence ends up being.

For now, Biden’s team should capitalize on the verdict by trying to come across as the sane, pro-rule-of-law candidate. And the conviction fits well with the president’s message of “don’t compare me to the Almighty; compare me to the alternative.” He can now stand on the debate stage and say, America isn’t the kind of country that will put a convicted felon in the White House.

If, in our present political climate, nothing is dispositive, Biden’s ability to make such a clear statement is certainly a plus.

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