Early warning signs emerge for Republican Party after US Capitol riots

Workers reinforce security fencing around the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. Bloomberg

In the 36 hours after last week's deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, 112 Republicans reached out to the election office in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, to change their party registration. Ethan Demme was one of them.

Ever since they started denying the election result, I kind of knew it was heading this way," said Demme, who is the county's former Republican Party chairman and has opposed President Donald Trump and is now an independent. "If they kept going, I knew there's no way I can keep going. But if you've been a Republican all your life, it's hard to jump out of a big boat and into a little boat. Officials are seeing similar scenes unfold elsewhere.

In Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, 192 people have changed their party registration since the Jan. 6 riot. Only 13 switched to the GOP the other 179 changed to Democrat, independent or a third party, according to Bethany Salzarulo, the director of the bureau of elections.

In Linn County, Iowa, home to Cedar Rapids, more than four dozen voters dropped their Republican Party affiliations in the 48 hours after the Capitol attack. They mostly switched to no party, elections commissioner Joel Miller said, though a small number took the highly unusual step of cancelling their registrations altogether.

The party switching pales in comparison to the more than 74 million people who voted for President Donald Trump in November. And it's unclear whether they're united in their motivations. Some may be rejecting politics altogether while others may be leaving a Republican Party they fear will be less loyal to Trump. But they offer an early sign of the volatility ahead for the GOP as the party braces for political fallout of the riots that Trump incited.

I do think there's a palpable shift, from knee-jerk defense of the president to 'wow, that was a bridge too far,' said Kirk Adams, the former Republican speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives.

Adams said he knew several people, including once-solid Trump supporters, who are switching their registrations. He said it may be weeks or months before the full impact of the insurrection is clear.

Minds are being changed," he said. "But you can't go overnight from 'I think the president's right and the election is being stolen' to 'I guess he was wrong about everything.' Party registration doesn't always preview how voters will actually cast their ballots, especially when the next major national elections are nearly two years away.

But party leaders across the country are expressing concern that the riots could have a lasting impact.

The GOP cannot afford any slippage in its ranks after an election that, even with record-breaking Republican turnout, saw them lose control of both the presidency and the US Senate.



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