Imagine you’re in charge of planning Joe Biden’s 2024 Presidential campaign. Sure, the election is 42 months away – but just imagine you’re in charge. You need to ensure the people who put you over the top the last time in key swing states such as Georgia, Arizona, and Wisconsin are going to stick with you.
Separately, now imagine you’re a Republican strategist similarly looking at November 2024. You want to flip those states back into the presidential column, having lost each one by less than one percentage point in 2020. The task seems doable with the right candidate and the right message.
In both cases, who are you most concerned about persuading? Among them have to be the people who voted for Donald Trump in 2016 then flipped to Joe Biden last year. These folks could easily bail on Biden and go back to the Republicans if President Biden doesn’t deliver—or delivers in the wrong way.
This brings us to the topic of infrastructure and swing-state Trump-to-Biden voters.
Each month I conduct focus groups with this category of voters from the 10 most competitive 2020 states. On April 13, I interviewed 13 Trump-Biden voters and spent some time asking about the President’s infrastructure plan.
While the sample size is admittedly small, the key takeaways – which point to Biden’s opportunities and vulnerabilities – offers significant insight into how this key demographic views the Biden agenda.
Eight of 13 think America’s infrastructure is in need of immediate attention, but just six say they support Biden’s plan.
“I agree that the improvement needs to happen throughout the country,” said Luis, 41, from Orlando, FL, who supports the plan. “That’s also I believe how they’re going to add additional jobs for the economy to pick up again.”
The worry, and hesitancy, is how such a massive bill is going to be paid for. “I think it’s an enormous amount of money,” said Ellen, 60, from Scottsdale, AZ. “And the question is, where is that money going to come from?”
Twelve of the 13 respondents agreed that any infrastructure bill be paid for by raising taxes on large corporations and wealthy individuals.
“I think so, because they’re the ones that benefit more than we do,” said Rildon, 45, from Houston, TX. “They’re the ones that are making the outrageous earnings every year, while the individuals like us are struggling now, having issues with paying your rent during this pandemic. Just alone in this pandemic all these corporations made billions of dollars.”
There is polling to back up Rildon’s sentiments. According to a Morning Consult-POLITICO poll conducted in late March, “fifty-four percent of voters said they support making improvements to America’s infrastructure funded by taxes on those making more than $400,000 per year and increases to the corporate tax rate.” Furthermore, another 27 percent said they support improving the country’s infrastructure, “but only if those improvements can be made without higher taxes.”
Brendan, 32, from Aldan, PA, is representative of this 27 percent that do not want higher taxes on the middle class. He added: “If you keep taking away from the middle class, they’re not going to have much left to spend. They’re not going to have money to actually build a home and build a family.”
None think President Biden has done a good job so far of explaining that he intends for this legislation to be paid for mainly by large corporations and wealthy individuals.
“I haven’t paid a lot of attention, but I definitely have not heard [who’s paying for it],” said James, 50, from Roswell, GA.
But one source of funding the legislation is totally off-limits: debt. None say they support borrowing money to pay for infrastructure.
“If we were to just tax corporations—like Amazon doesn’t pay any taxes—if we were to use just that money alone, it would solve so much, said Daniel, 34, from Las Vegas, NV. “When you have options like that available, it doesn’t make any sense why you would have to borrow when you could have people just pay their fair share.”
Finally, 11 said it matters a lot that the President’s infrastructure bill be supported by both Republicans and Democrats in Congress, and not just Democrats.
Cherylyn, 45, from Decatur, MI, observed, “I think without agreement on both sides, it’s just going to spin and spin and spin, and nothing will get done. I already think he’s kind of biting off more than he can chew. It’s a broad scope. I think it should be more narrow of a scope, and if you don’t have the other half buy in, it’ll take forever and not happen.”
In short, the President has his marching orders from swing voters: work in a bipartisan fashion, let the rich pay the tab, and don’t incur more debt.