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Wisconsin Swing Voters Are Done With Trump and Biden—and Not Sold on DeSantis

Trump-to-Biden voters don't want the olds.
July 22, 2022
Wisconsin Swing Voters Are Done With Trump and Biden—and Not Sold on DeSantis
(Composite / Photos: GettyImages / Shutterstock)

Wisconsin swing voters have had their fill of both Donald Trump and Joe Biden, and don’t want either to run again in 2024. 

This was a key takeaway from a pair of focus groups we conducted on July 12 with 14 Wisconsinites who voted for Trump in 2016 and Biden in 2020. None of our swing voters wanted Biden to run for re-election and only two wanted Trump to run again. These respondents are looking for someone younger and different in 2024. 

John, 43, from Milwaukee, explained, 

Age is a big thing with both of them. We don’t want ageism and that kind of thing, but the world is a completely different place than what they’ve ever dealt with [compared to] most of us normal Americans. They’ve been either rich or in politics for such a period of time, they don’t understand how it is to be an everyday American and things we deal with. . . . Neither of them understand what we actually go through, or what we do, in our day-to-day lives.

“Trump, I would have to agree, was great for our economy, but he was an embarrassment by the way he spoke, his tweets, his attitude,” commented Ginger, 62, from Sherwood. “He was not in control of his emotions, and I found that to be very embarrassing for the leader of our country. Biden is just so confused, and he’s almost like a puppet who is saying what somebody tells him to say. Anytime he speaks, he gets so confused. I think he needs to enjoy retirement.”

“I just don’t feel [Biden] is all there enough to keep going. He’s too old for [the presidency],” remarked Jamie, 36, from Green Bay. 

“Honestly, Trump’s new name may be Donald ‘Jailbird’ Trump,” commented Philip, 60, from Madison. “Depending on the outcome of these [January 6 Committee] hearings, he may not be available to be president. His personality, his narcissism was getting more prevalent in the last couple years of his administration, and it just continues.”

Joseph, 40, from Van Dyne, added, “I think as a president, [Biden] is very unsure of his role as president. I feel his speech—it’s just not there for me . . . And the economy really is no better off than it was when Trump was president.”

Of note: 10 of the 14 think Trump should be indicted for his role on January 6, 2021. And all 14 of these people voted for Trump in 2016.

Most political observers believe if Trump were to not run for president again in 2024, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis would be in the best position to win the Republican nomination, a notion supported by public polling

When we showed the group an unlabeled photo of DeSantis, only five respondents told us they would be able to identify him by name. Those familiar with him provided mostly negative feedback. When we asked them to tell us what came to mind when they think about him, here’s what they said:

“Please don’t become president,” pleaded Samantha, 39, from Milwaukee. She was critical of “what he’s doing in Florida right now.” She elaborated: “You have everything in schools with the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ [law]. You can’t talk about anything like that in schools. I think it is a poorly run state.”

“[DeSantis] is radical, just how he talks and the decisions he’s made for Florida,” remarked Andrew, 59, from Green Bay. “He backed up Trump with the fake votes and the illegal election.”

Philip, 60, from Madison, also commented on DeSantis, saying, “He’s kind of a Trump without the zaniness, but he also gets things done, at least in his state.”

“It seems he’s pretty irrational with how he handled COVID and also how he handled what happened with DisneyWorld,” commented Tracy, 54, from Eau Claire. 

Sebastian, 26, from Kenosha added, “[DeSantis] has pretty extreme policies and somewhat anti-democratic ideas.” 

Among our 14 swing voters, only one wants to see DeSantis run for the Republican nomination in 2024.

Certainly there’s a long time between now and the next presidential election, but if DeSantis is laying the groundwork for a campaign, there’s little evidence that it’s working with swing voters in a key swing state. 

Rich Thau and Matt Steffee

Rich Thau is the president of the research firm Engagious, which specializes in message testing and message refinement for trade associations and advocacy groups. He is also the moderator of the Swing Voter Project, conducted in partnership with Schlesinger Group.
Matt Steffee is vice president of research services at Engagious.