“Trump-Biden” Swing Voters Give GOP a Mulligan

Focus groups led by Rich Thau (Courtesy of the Swing Voter Project)
Focus groups led by Rich Thau (Courtesy of the Swing Voter Project)

Donald Trump owns 17 golf courses, so no doubt he’s familiar with mulligans. Possibly Members of Congress who’ve played golf with Trump, such as Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Rand Paul (R-KY), have taken mulligans while out on his greens.


For the uninitiated, a mulligan is an informal do-over where a golfer gets to replay a stroke after a bad shot. Often the term refers to do-overs in realms beyond the fairway—such as politics.


For example, Tony Perkins, the head of the conservative Family Research Council, famously claimed in 2017 that evangelicals gave Trump a mulligan for his personal behavior. “They let him have a do-over,” Perkins remarked. “They said, ‘We’ll start afresh with you, and we’ll give you a second chance.’”


A second chance is what Republicans in Congress will need from voters in 2022 if they want to regain majorities in the House and Senate. And according to most of the swing voters I focus-grouped on January 21—ones who voted for Trump in 2016 then Biden in 2020—they’re willing to give Graham’s and Paul’s Congressional colleagues that chance.


During the first focus groups of the 2021 Swing Voter Project—a monthly research exercise I moderate via Zoom—I asked 13 respondents across seven swing states the following question: “All of you turned away from the Republican Presidential candidate in the last election. Who also turned away from the Republican party itself, and feels like you cannot vote for their candidates for the Senate or House in 2022?”


Surprisingly, only one of the 13 told me that she was done with the GOP. Most instead offered comments like this:

“I usually vote for who the best candidate is going to be. One person [Trump] can’t ruin the whole party,” said Brian, a 57-year-old from Scranton, PA.


“Overall, the Republican Party, they’re made up of people who are trying. Yeah, they make mistakes, just like Democrats make mistakes,” added Matthew, a 28-year-old from Roswell, GA. “I wouldn’t rule out any one party just because they had one bad President.”


“I’m not going to hold a grudge over one person’s mistake,” echoed Lindsay, a 39-year-old from Raleigh, NC.


“I wouldn’t shut them down just because they are Republican,” added Rick, a 60-year-old in Mesa, AZ.


The one exception was Ashley, 44, from Stanfield, NC. She resented Republicans who claim the pandemic is fake and who are opposed to wearing masks. “The way the Republicans did handle [the pandemic] and talk about it, it did turn me off,” she said.


While atypical in her lack of forgiveness towards the GOP, Ashley was far more typical of these “Trump-Biden” voters when it comes to denying President Trump a mulligan. Nine of the 13 respondents want to see him permanently stuck in a sand trap and barred from holding office again.




Rich Thau

Rich is the president of Engagious. His company is the industry leader in scientifically testing and refining the effectiveness of business and issue-advocacy content, moment-to-moment. The firm helps its clients become more successful by applying the power of behavioral science and social psychology to dial test focus groups.


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