HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) – Within 36 hours of last week’s deadly insurgency on the U.S. Capitol, 112 Republicans contacted the Lancaster County, Pa., Election Office to change the registration of their party. Ethan Demme was one of them.
“Ever since they started denying the election result, I knew it was going in that direction,” said Demme, who is the former chairman of the county Republican Party and has opposed President Donald Trump and is now independent. “If they continued, I knew I couldn’t continue. But if you’ve been a Republican all your life, it’s hard to jump off a big boat and get on a small boat.
Officials see similar scenes unfolding elsewhere.
In Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, 192 people have changed their party registration since the January 6 riot. Only 13 made it to the GOP – the other 179 went on to become Democrats, independents or third parties, according to Bethany Salzarulo, the director of the elections office.
In Linn County, Iowa, home to Cedar Rapids, more than four dozen voters abandoned their Republican Party affiliations within 48 hours of the attack on Capitol Hill. They have mostly switched to no party, Election Commissioner Joel Miller said, although a small number have taken the highly unusual step of canceling their registrations altogether.
The change of party pales in comparison to the more than 74 million people who voted for President Donald Trump in November. And we don’t know if they are united in their motivations. Some may reject politics altogether while others may quit a Republican party that they fear is less loyal to Trump.
But they offer an early sign of volatility to come for the GOP as the party braces for the political fallout from the riots Trump has instigated.
“I think there is a palpable shift, from the president’s instinctive defense to ‘wow, that was a bridge too far’,” said Kirk Adams, the former Republican speaker of the House of Representatives. Arizona.
Adams said he knows several people, including once strong Trump supporters, who are switching records. He said it could take weeks or months before the full impact of the insurgency is clear.
“Minds are changing,” he says. “But you can’t go overnight” I think the president is right and the elections are stolen “from” I guess he got everything wrong. “”
Party registration does not always capture how voters will actually vote, especially when the next big national elections are held in almost two years. But party leaders across the country are worried the riots could have a lasting impact.
The GOP cannot afford any slippage in its ranks after an election that, even with a record Republican turnout, saw them lose control of the US Presidency and Senate.
“More and more I watch my party in this state and our numbers are going down,” said Gary Eichelberger, a suburban commissioner in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania. “If we reduce the party base, we will lose this county.”
Republicans in Washington are approaching the moment cautiously, denouncing the insurgency and providing little defense for Trump. But so far, few have joined Democratic calls for the president’s impeachment and immediate impeachment.
Only two Senate Republicans, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Patrick Toomey of Pennsylvania, have called on Trump to step down.
Several GOP officials said there was some unease over the party’s leadership at the RNC’s winter meeting on Amelia Island, Florida, which took place days after the attack. . According to Henry Barbour, a member of the Mississippi RNC, serious discussions are underway at the committee to thoroughly examine the results of the 2020 election to determine what the party has done wrong and how best to attract voters.
But Trump still has influence over sections of the GOP base.
A Quinnipiac poll released Monday found that about three-quarters of Republicans believe Trump’s false claims that there was widespread voter fraud in the November election, which sparked the attack on Capitol Hill after Trump urged a host of supporters to come to Congress as he was prepared to certify the victory of President-elect Joe Biden.
In total, 7 in 10 Republicans approved of Trump’s performance as president, up from 89% in Quinnipiac’s December poll.
“When you love President Trump, you love President Trump,” said Michele Fiore, a woman on the Nevada RNC committee. “With all our hearts we support him. We know it didn’t create the chaos that happened in Washington, DC on January 6. “
Rae Chornenky, who resigned the Republican Party presidency from Maricopa County in Arizona shortly after the election amid a power struggle with those in the state party claiming widespread electoral fraud, said that she thought the president still had a hammer on the party base.
“They just believe it was a stolen election and they are not going to back down on that position,” Chornenky said. “He will be the driving force” of the GOP for years to come, Chornenky predicted of Trump.
The 2022 midterm elections may provide a test of this. Former Rep. Ryan Costello is strongly considering running for the open Pennsylvania Senate seat as a Republican. A longtime Trump critic, he sees the time for an explicitly anti-Trump GOP candidate.
“We need people who are willing to lose races, lose political campaigns, because of it,” Costello said. “We need campaigns on the cleanup of the party. Sometimes it is not possible to dance around landmines. Sometimes you just have to go for it.
Beaumont reported from Des Moines, Iowa, and Riccardi from Denver. Writers of Associated Press Summer Ballentine in Columbia, Missouri; Scott Bauer in Madison, Wisconsin; Hannah Fingerhut in Washington; Ryan J. Foley in Iowa City, Iowa; Steve Peoples in New York; and Julie Carr Smyth in Columbus, Ohio, contributed to this report.