Focus group: Michigan swing voters think Harris will act as president

Sen. Kamala Harris during Wednesday's vice presidential debate. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Several Michigan voters who are sticking with President Trump think that if Joe Biden gets elected, Sen. Kamala Harris will be running the show — and her Wednesday debate performance reinforced their view.

Why it matters: These are some of the few voters for whom the vice-presidential pick has outsized importance in how they view the two tickets, and for now that's benefitting Trump.

This was the biggest takeaway from our special post-vice presidential debate Engagious/Schlesinger focus group with 13 voters who chose Barack Obama in 2012 but Trump in 2016.

  • Two of them will vote for Biden, both because of the coronavirus pandemic and the economy.
  • While a focus group is not a statistically significant sample like a poll, the responses show how some voters are thinking and talking about the 2020 election in crucial states.
  • Biden leads Trump by about 6 percentage points in Michigan in the RealClearPolitics polling average.

What they’re saying: “Biden’s not going to make it four years, so Kamala Harris is going to be president and I have zero trust she can be president, so I’m just picking the lesser of two evils at this point,” said Shelley D. Everyone else in the group agreed.

  • And while some even liked what Harris had to say at the debate, they remain skeptical of change. “I’m going to have to stick with [Trump] because I don't know if the Left will make due on the promises they’re saying right now,” said Adam M.
  • Others described feeling “scared” because Harris “actually did a better job than Pence,” as one participant put it.

Between the lines: These voters thought Harris did too well at the debate, with many saying they’re now fearful she’ll boost Biden’s chances to win because of how she connects with the American people.

  • “I’m fearful of this woman because she knows how to strike chords with the people of America,” said Matt T. “She’s basically utilizing everything that has happened this year to attack the Trump campaign and she does it in such a way that she’s making really strong points, but I don’t think they’re true. So she’s coming across very powerful.”
  • Some mocked her hand gestures, but most thought she appeared more prepared for the debate than Pence.
  • Several Trump voters described Pence’s debate performance as lacking “energy” and “emotion,” and they were largely frustrated that he didn’t answer most of the questions asked.
  • Guy D., who’s voting to re-elect President Trump, said he felt “a little disappointed” watching Pence Wednesday night “because it seemed like he didn’t get to the point.”

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