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Wisconsin focus group suggests Trump's dishonesty is a problem

Several swing voters in a Wisconsin focus group made clear that they have a problem with Donald Trump's allergy to honesty.
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally at the W.L. Zorn Arena Nov. 1, 2016 in Eau Claire, Wis. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty)
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally at the W.L. Zorn Arena Nov. 1, 2016 in Eau Claire, Wis. 

Democrats suffered a series of bitter disappointments in the last presidential election cycle, but Donald Trump's narrow victory in Wisconsin was among the most severe. The Badger State had supported the Democratic ticket in each of the last seven presidential elections -- Barack Obama carried Wisconsin with relative ease in both of his national races -- but the state nevertheless backed Trump by about 0.7% of the statewide vote.

It's against this backdrop that Axios reported yesterday on a focus group conducted in Appleton, Wis., featuring a group of swing voters, most of whom voted for Obama in 2012, before switching to Trump in 2016. There were a variety of interesting takeaways, but one of the things that stood out for me was a common thread among some of the voters who backed the Republican, but who aren't sure about voting for him again.

"I think he's a dirty crook that lies, cheats, and steals when he can," said George Engelmann, a 49-year-old Obama/Trump voter. [...]Adam K., a 47-year-old Obama/Trump voter, said he wishes Trump would own the things he's lied about. "He's been caught in a lot of lies. ... You know, just admit that you made a mistake and say 'I'm sorry, I shouldn't have said that.'"Amanda S., a 39-year-old Obama/Trump voter, said: "He's getting stuff done, but he lies. I don't think he's a very good person, but he's getting stuff done, so it's hard."

Obviously, the idea that Trump is "getting stuff done" is highly dubious, but let's not miss the forest for the trees: many of the swing voters who participated in this focus group have a problem with the president's incessant lying.

I mention this, in part because of the electoral implications, and in part because there's been a lingering debate for months about whether Trump's uncontrollable dishonesty is a problem the public at large even recognizes. Is there a point to fact-checking? Do voters notice? Or care?

While extrapolating too much from focus groups is always risky, this one offers at least some evidence that Trump's allergy to honesty has not gone unnoticed -- even among some voters who reluctantly supported him three years ago.

Postscript: Looking ahead, the only Democrat these voters would be excited about in 2020 is Michelle Obama, and the last time I checked, she's not running.