Even moments after a mob of extremist supporters of former President Donald Trump stormed the United States Capitol in an effort to overturn the results of the 2020 election, a number of Republican lawmakers—during the joint Congressional session acknowledging then-President-elect Joe Biden's victory—proceeded with objections to electoral votes in swing states Trump lost.
Some Republican lawmakers—like now-former Senator from Georgia, Kelly Loeffler—revoked their intended objections after the rioters shattered windows, ransacked offices, beat police officers, and breached the Senate floor, calling for the execution of any lawmaker they saw as disloyal to Trump.
Others—like Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri—continued with their objections, and have since continued to downplay the severity of the riots and absolve themselves of their culpability.
This is where the Republican party began to splinter in its mostly unconditional allegiance to Trump. Who stood up to the mob? Who proceeded to amplify the same lies that had endangered the lives of their colleagues only an hour before?
Which principles would Republican voters side with in the next election?
That last question remains unanswered, and people are divided in their predictions.
By and large, Republican lawmakers have fought to wipe the failed insurrection from the public memory, describing it as a "normal tourist visit" or absurdly claimed covert anti-Trump activists had secretly coordinated the riots. The Republicans who spoke out—like former Republican Conference Leader Liz Cheney of Wyoming—became pariahs in the party, as Cheney did when she was stripped of her leadership role.
But the findings of a new poll from a deep red congressional district—Tennessee's Third Congressional District—may be a precursor to the national mindset in the Republican Party's voting base.
In a piece for The New Republic, finance officer David Eichenthal writes of his district:
"For Democrats, the electoral math seems daunting. In Hamilton County, the most Democratic of the district's counties, Donald Trump defeated Joe Biden 92,108 to 75,522 votes. And in Scott County, known as "the free state of Scott" for its support of the Union during the Civil War, Donald Trump beat Joe Biden by a margin of better than eight-to-one."
But a poll commissioned by Eichenthal of 400 TN-03 voters found some surprising results:
"One-third of Trump voters, one-third of conservatives, 34 percent of Republicans, and 39 percent of Independents said that there was no chance that they would consider a candidate who voted to block certification."
While these numbers don't reflect a majority of Republicans and Independents completely unwilling to vote for a candidate who tossed out the electoral votes, they're still strong enough to have major impacts on Republican primaries and, potentially, could result in victories for moderate Democrats running in the district.
Some hoped this pattern in a district as red as TN-03 indicated similar resolve in more purple districts across the nation.
Others were less convinced.
We won't know til 2022.