PITTSBURGH — The Jan. 6 House hearings appear to be gaining ground in some of this fall’s most competitive congressional districts in key states, though the panel’s work doesn’t seem to have much impact on how voters view candidates for congress and governor.
One of the biggest questions surrounding the Jan. 6 committee is whether voters, particularly in states like Pennsylvania and Arizona, took notice of its findings. Of more than a dozen voters — Republicans, Democrats and those who identified themselves as independents — polled in three hotly contested congressional districts in those two states, most said they pay at least some attention to the committee. However, their takeaways varied, with some feeling the committee strengthened the case for then-President Donald Trump’s culpability in the riots, while others felt it amounted to congressional overstatement.
Joseph Ganter, 73, of Ross Township, Pennsylvania, has given close attention to the committee investigating the Jan. 6 riots in the Capitol and the former president’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election and his recent hearings. Ganter says he voted for Trump in 2016, Joe Biden in 2020 and now says he’ll never vote for president again, disillusioned with both.
“I think he started it,” Ganter said of Trump, speaking to NBC News ahead of last Thursday’s prime-time hearing, which he planned to watch. “He got on his [Twitter] and sent messages and he let it go for, what, 90 minutes or so? And he let it go and I felt very wrong that he didn’t do anything.”
Ganter, a long-registered Democrat who now considers himself an independent, lives right in the heart of one of this fall’s most contested house districts, Pennsylvania’s 17th congressional district. He says he doesn’t think the committee will make the Justice Department “do a damn thing” when it comes to potential consequences for Trump.
“Although Trump was guilty of many things, they won’t get him because they fear it will disrupt the country again,” he said. “So you judge it yourself.”
Robert, 72, of North Hills, who asked that his last name be withheld to give his opinion on sensitive political issues, told NBC News that he was watching the committee’s first hearing, hearing part of its second and paying close attention to the coverage have pursued.
“I think people have really started to see how desperate Trump was to stay in office,” said Robert, a lifelong Republican before voting for Biden in 2020. “And it seems like he went to almost every extreme to stay in the office and really tried to pull all the strings he could. He thought maybe he was above the law. Now things are coming back to bite him.”
The two men are the sort of voters who could go a long way in deciding some of the most anticipated elections this fall, including for the Senate and for the governorship in Pennsylvania and Arizona. And they are among the millions of Americans who watched the January 6 hearings; Nielsen estimates that 17.7 million people watched Thursday’s prime-time hearing, and the hearings totaled 13.1 million viewers each.
But the hearings didn’t seem to have much impact on how either man approached how he would vote this fall. Both said they leaned toward Attorney General Josh Shapiro, a Democrat, in Pennsylvania’s high-stakes gubernatorial contest, against state Senator Doug Mastriano, a Republican who was before the Capitol on Jan. 6 and has been promoting election conspiracy theories. In the Senate contest, Robert said he was “very torn” between Democratic Lt. gov. John Fetterman and Republican Mehmet Oz, while Ganter said Oz’s limited history in the state influenced his view of the race.
The bipartisan Cook Political Report rates the vacancy in her home county just outside of Pittsburgh as a toss-up. NBC News also visited Pennsylvania’s 8th congressional district near Scranton, where Cook sees Democrat Matt Cartwright’s re-election as a miss, and Arizona’s 4th congressional district, east of Phoenix, where Rep. Greg Stanton, D-Ariz. is running for re-election in a publication ratings contest as tending to be Democratic.
At a campaign rally last week in northwestern Pennsylvania, Shapiro spoke at length about Mastriano’s presence outside the Capitol on Jan. 6, arguing that Mastriano was “unfit” to oversee state police because of his actions that day.
“When the police looked at Mastriano and the others and said stop, he continued to march,” Shapiro added.
Shapiro said it was difficult to gauge the impact the January 6 hearings would have on his race, although he will continue to push for Mastriano’s January 6 connections as part of his campaign.
“I think that disqualifies him,” he said. “I side with law enforcement and I respect law enforcement. He sided with the insurgent mob.”
Recent polls have shown the hearings may be making a difference in how some voters view the Jan. 6 attack, but like Ganter and Robert, they’re not making it a priority as a voting issue. A poll by NPR/PBS Newshour/Marist released ahead of the committee’s prime-time hearing last week — with an error margin of 4.4 percentage points — found that 80% of Democrats, 55% of independents, and 44% of Republicans are paying at least some attention to the hearings.
The hearings coincided with a rise in the number of independents now calling the uprising “an uprising and a threat to democracy”, with 52% of independents now saying so, a rise of 9 percentage points since December. However, Republicans have changed little in their views on the attack, with just 12% now describing it as an insurgency, down from 10% in December. And while 92% of Democrats and 57% of independents say Trump bears some “big” or “big” blame for Jan. 6, just 18% of Republicans said the same.
Still, only 9% of voters identified the hearings as an important voting issue, with Republicans more concerned about inflation, Democrats more concerned with abortion rights following the fall of Roe v. Wade through the Supreme Court and the Independents cared more about both.
In the meantime, a poll by Reuters/Ipsos The study, released ahead of last week’s hearing, found that 40% of Republicans believe Trump is at least partially responsible for Jan. 6, up 7 percentage points from the June poll. Only one in four respondents said they had not followed the hearings at all. The survey had an error rate of about 4 percentage points.
In Arizona’s 4th congressional district, two voters who identified themselves as independents told NBC News that they at least followed the testimony of Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers before the panel. However, local Republicans tended to oppose the procedure.
Peggy Marchi, 70, of Mesa, told NBC News that she and others she knows in the area did not prioritize the Jan. 6 hearings.
“I think they want things to be done at the border,” she said. “I think they want the economy, the gas prices. They all want the same things. And they’re not interested in watching January 6th what they’re showing on TV. To me it’s wasted effort and everyone I’ve spoken to says it’s a waste of time and money.”
Carol Van Kley, an 81-year-old Republican from Mesa, said she doesn’t care much about the committee but is sure others would.
“I’m sure there are a lot of people who are paying a lot of attention to that,” she said. “The Democrats. But I do not know. I think people are really confused right now.”
The latest hearing dealt with the committee’s investigation into the more than three hours between the start of the riots and when Trump posted a video on Twitter telling his supporters to “go home.” The panel has attempted to demonstrate Trump’s guilt in the attack by tying his campaign lies to his Jan. 6 call to action, which many supporters have followed.
In her closing statement Thursday, Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., the committee’s vice chair, appealed directly to Republicans as to why they should feel upset about Trump’s behavior. Almost all of the witnesses who spoke during the committee hearings were also Republicans who once supported Trump—they worked in his White House, administration, or campaign, or were elected state party leaders who were under pressure to hold the election before June 6 .January to tip .
“Donald Trump knows that millions of Americans who supported him would stand up and defend our nation if threatened,” she said. “They would risk their lives and freedom to protect them. And he preys on their patriotism, their sense of justice, and on January 6, Donald Trump turned their love of their country into a weapon against our Capitol and against our Constitution.”
In an interview after the last hearing, Russ Wend, a 64-year-old Republican from Luzerne County in Pennsylvania’s 8th congressional district, said that everything he hears from the jury is always the same.
“I don’t think they’re doing anything,” he said. “You keep repeating the same thing.”
Another county Republican, Mark Laverdi, 55, said he felt that while Trump did some things wrong, the committee went too far.
“I think they’re going a little overboard,” he said. “I mean, he’s not in the office. You can’t say, “Just leave the man alone,” but I think they’re overdoing it. Leave a dead dog, you know?”
Doug Pickens, a 68-year-old Democrat from Pittsburgh, said he has watched every hearing and that his friends are very active. However, he acknowledged that many Republicans were unlikely to be swayed by the proceeding.
“I hope there’s that 15, 20% of undecided people who are looking at it with an open mind,” he said. “And then make a different decision.”
https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/congress/jan-6-hearings-are-breaking-key-battleground-states-partisan-rifts-rem-rcna39910 Jan. 6 hearings break through in key battleground states. Partisan columns remain.