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In Washington, much attention is directed toward the impeachment inquiry. But how is it viewed in other parts of the country? We turn to three public media reporters to find out: Caitie Switalski with WLRN in South Florida, Mary Lahammer of Twin Cities PBS in Minneapolis and Bente Birkeland of Colorado Public Radio. The three join Judy Woodruff to discuss partisan divides and impeachment fatigue.
Here in the nation's capital, pretty much all the attention is on impeachment, but how is it being received in other parts of the country?
We turn to three public media reporters to find out.
Caitie Switalski is with WLRN. It is South Florida's public radio station. Mary Lahammer of Twin Cities PBS in Minneapolis, and Bente Birkeland of Colorado Public Radio. Bente joins us from Minneapolis as well, where she is visiting for the holidays.
So, hello to all three of you. It's great to have you with us on the "NewsHour."
Bente, I'm going to start with you. I know your home is Colorado, and that's what I want to talk about.
When you talk to Colorado voters about what's going on with impeachment, what do they say? How much attention are they paying? Are they interested in it?
When we talk to voters across the political spectrum, I was surprised how engaged people are and how much they're paying attention.
A lot of people said they were going to watch the public hearings live. Other people were planning to follow it closely in the news. And people had a lot of opinions, but also understood the nuance and were just very, very closely paying attention.
And, Mary Lahammer, what about you? I mean, your beat is Minnesota, the Twin Cities. Are people — are they following these hearings?
Absolutely. Minnesotans are always incredibly engaged in politics. You know we lead the nation in voter turnout, and we're also politically divided. We have one of, if not the only divided legislature in the nation.
And we're divided on impeachment too. The latest polls show not a majority for or against it. So, Minnesotans tend to run independent. We have a libertarian streak. We know President Trump came close to winning Minnesota, just a percentage point-and-a-half away. He visited here last month. He wants to be in contention.
But those same polls are showing that as much as 10 points down on the presidential race. May have a factor that we do have a Minnesotan in the race in Senator Amy Klobuchar.
You surely do.
So, Caitie Switalski, President Trump came to South Florida last night for a political rally. You were there. You went to the rally.
And before I turn to you, I want to play for viewers just a bit of what the president had to say about the Democrats who are running this impeachment process.
President Donald Trump:
They're pushing that impeachment witch-hunt. And a lot of bad things are happening to them, because you see what's happening in the polls?
Everybody said, that's really bull (EXPLETIVE DELETED).
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
So, Caitie, clearly a very pro-Trump crowd. They appeared not to think much of the impeachment process. But what did they tell you?
So, I think one of the interesting parts is that the Trump supporters that are really worried about impeachment are worried about it from the perspective that their vote could potentially be suppressed or taken away from the 2016 election, which was a really interesting perspective I hadn't heard before.
But last night, by and large, people are aligning impeachment just like they are from the Stormy Daniels scandal or the Mueller report. They're kind of thinking that this is one other thing, something new that is going to blow up — or blow over soon.
And what about — staying with you, Caitie, what about voters you talked to before this rally? I mean, you have been interviewing voters over a number of days.
What's everybody — what is everybody else telling you?
Well, so, last night, there was a huge group of 19,000 to 20,000 Trump supporters in Broward County, which is a very, very blue Democratic county, ahead of this rally, but there was also a counter-Democratic protest.
So I think South Floridians are worried about a couple of things here, but they are engaged in the impeachment process. And one of the interesting things is, if they're not watching it live, they have been seriously following news recaps at the end of the day to make sure that they at least know the gist.
I have had a lot of people tell me they're really relying on recaps.
Bente Birkeland, I want to come back to you in terms of how people are following this.
Do you find folks have their minds made up? Or are they still open-minded, waiting for more information? What do they say about that?
I think it's a little bit of both.
Definitely, you have the pro-Trump supporters, who feel like this is just a waste of time, and the government should move on, and people have been trying to get Trump out of office since the day he was elected.
And some Democrats, they know how they feel. They think there's already enough evidence for impeachment. But I was surprised how many people are in the middle, who were waiting to get more information.
I talked to a conservative woman who did not vote for Trump in the last election. She voted third party. And she said how lawmakers conduct themselves during this public phase will impact her vote, especially down-ticket. We have a very competitive U.S. Senate race.
Republican Cory Gardner is facing potentially a tough challenge. And she said that could impact how she votes in the Senate race, when it moves to that phase, if it does.
So it was — you know, not everyone is set in their opinions on this. And we found that with unaffiliated voters as well.
And, Mary Lahammer, what about the Twin Cities, and what about Minnesota people? Set in stone on this, or still looking for information?
You know, I think there are some looking for information.
Our latest poll, Survey USA and KSTP, came out with 45 percent of Minnesotans thinking there was enough evidence to convict, and 40 percent saying they're not; 15 percent either don't have an opinion or undecided.
I talked to one independent voters voter today who said he is still watching, watching everything closely, watching as much of the hearings as possible, to make up his mind. He said he's staying open-minded, really wants to hear.
Then I checked in with another independent voter. We have a lot of them here. And that independent voter said they're at complete fatigue. They're done. They're not watching. They want to move on to issues. We are an issue-oriented populace here.
And this voter want to hear about health care, cares a lot about health care. We have major employers, the world famous Mayo Clinic here, the largest employer in the state of Minnesota, many, many health care companies, a lot of Fortune 500 companies. We care about business. We care about health care.
It sounds like some have really kind of started to reach a fatigue point on it.
Caitie Switalski, back to you in South Florida.
What about this question of, across the board, voters still open to new information, new facts, or pretty much set in their views?
I would say the voters I have spoken with are set in their views one way or the other.
I think, especially for Democrats, keeping up with the impeachment hearings, a couple of voters told me, now we know that there's evidence. Now we see our evidence, vs. Republicans — I think a lot of Trump supporters I spoke with are really, really convinced that there's not evidence.
So I think both sides are seeing what they want to see come from the impeachment proceedings, but they're still paying attention, even though they're not necessarily coming across as open-minded.
Bente Birkeland, I want to come back to you on the question of, are people believing what they see and what they hear?
Do they think the process is being — is being conducted in a fair way, that it's on the level?
I think — well, that one was a little bit more partisan.
I think Republicans feel like the whole question, in and of itself, is — is done in a partisan way, and it shouldn't even be happening. And I think Democrats and more of the unaffiliated voters thought, look, this information has come to light, and we need to get to the bottom of this.
To echo of what Mary said, there is a sense of fatigue, even from Democrats who feel that the president should be impeached. They don't want this to drag on too long. People are just really worn out and wary. And a lot of folks, it's even hard to get them to talk about this topic.
People said they try to keep their opinions to themselves because they know how volatile it can be and they know how divergent people's opinions are. So, in some sense, people are really interested, but they also want to move on.
Same thing, Mary Lahammer, Minnesota.
Do you find people believe what they're watching? Do they think this is a — this is a fair process?
I think it really depends on where you come from. I think Democrats think it's fair, and I think Republicans don't.
I have noticed, looking at just my e-mail inbox from our members of Congress, because we have a really interesting delegation — we have a majority — five out of eight of our new members of Congress are new, and four of them flipped seats. So we had two Republicans who flipped Democratic districts, two Democrats who flipped Republican districts.
And they're all relatively quiet. I don't even think our members of Congress really want to be talking about this much. We even have an ad going now. We have our Seventh District congressman, Collin Peterson. He is a Democrat who won in the biggest Trump district.
So he has a really tough challenger in a battle with former Lieutenant Governor Michelle Fischbach running against him. And there are ads right now trying to drum on Collin Peterson about this. And he is one of only two Democrats who voted against the initial impeachment proceedings.
So we are incredibly divided. And those five new members of Congress are under a lot of pressure on this issue.
So, when you add it all up, Caitie Switalski, people feeling that we're going to get to the bottom of this in some way, or just — they just are writing this off?
Well, I had a couple of voters tell me, look, impeachment is going to happen one way or the other, potentially. We don't know if that equals removal, but it doesn't matter, because what's next is the election.
So I think Democrats are really, really trying to look forward, figure out how to get out the vote, mobilize, organize ahead of the election, despite whatever happens with impeachment, keep moving towards the election.
So interesting to get these views from around the country.
Caitie Switalski, Broward County, Florida, WLRN Radio, Bente Birkeland with Colorado Public Radio, and Mary Lahammer, Twin Cities PBS, thank you very much.
Thank you, Judy.
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