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Rep. Liz Cheney during a March news conference in Washington, D.C. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

As House Republicans meet to oust Rep. Liz Cheney from her leadership post for criticizing Donald Trump, swing voters in Axios' latest Engagious/Schlesinger focus groups hold a near-unanimous view that Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and his caucus are making a mistake.

The big picture: Nine of 14 voters said they could vote for a Republican for U.S. House or Senate races next year. All but one ruled out backing any candidate who clings to the former president's lie that the 2020 election was stolen from him.

  • 13 of the 14 said Cheney (R-Wyo.) should not be removed and that it would be a mistake for House Republicans to go through with their plans.

These were the biggest takeaways from two back-to-back focus groups conducted Tuesday night, on the eve of an expected vote to purge Cheney from her No. 3 spot in the House GOP leadership.

  • The two seven-member panels included women and men, from a mix of the most competitive swing states, who voted for Trump in 2016 but President Biden in 2020.
  • While focus groups are not statistically significant samples like polls, the responses show how some voters in crucial states are thinking about issues that could shape next year's midterm elections.

What they're saying: These voters said they're turned off by House Republicans' perceived fealty to Trump and the idea that there's no tolerance for dissent or critical or independent thinking.

  • "It seems like you need to conform to be a leader in the Republican Party," said Rosie F., 53, of Pennsylvania.
  • "They're followers," said Jimmy S., 41, from Maricopa County, Arizona. "It's all about trying to please one person."
  • Engagious president Rich Thau, who moderated the focus groups, said swing voters themselves tend to be non-conformists so "when they see a political party punishing a person like them, it rubs them the wrong way."

Between the lines: This remains largely an inside-the-Beltway drama.

  • Just six of the 14 voters initially knew of Cheney by name, and only five knew she holds a leadership post.
  • Only after details of the controversy and her public statements were outlined did most say that her expected removal would be wrong.

Of note: While a couple of voters said they thought Cheney should run for president in 2024, none believed that she would stand a chance of winning the GOP's nomination.

Go deeper

Aug 15, 2021 - Politics & Policy

McCarthy’s silent treatment

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy has been maintaining a deliberate silence about how his caucus should approach the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill.

Why it matters: It passed the Senate last week with the support of 19 Republicans, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). But it faces an uncertain future in the House, with even Democrats divided over what they want.

House passes $768 billion defense spending bill

Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The House approved a $768 billion National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for the 2022 fiscal year in a bipartisan 316-113 vote on Thursday.

Why it matters: The annual bill, which authorizes Pentagon spending levels and guides policy for the department, would require women to register for the military draft, among other provisions.

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Republicans’ secret lobbying

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

The five Senate Republicans who helped negotiate and draft the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill have been privately courting their Republican colleagues to pass the measure in the House.

Why it matters: House GOP leaders are actively urging their members to oppose the bill. The senators are working to undercut that effort as Monday shapes up as a do-or-die moment for the bipartisan bill.