PHILADELPHIA—They had to be out there. The country is too big for them not to be. Somewhere in the electorate existed that scarce band of voters: the few and far between who backed Hillary Clinton in 2016 and now want to keep President Donald Trump in power.
But where? Who are the people who looked at two candidates different in every way imaginable and concluded, four years apart, that both are qualified to lead the free world? What happened that perhaps made them wish they’d voted for Trump in the first place?
They “are rare creatures,” Geoff Garin, a Democratic pollster, told me. “You can find some, but you also can find needles in haystacks.” Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster, emailed: “Hmmm … I honestly have nothing to say about Clinton ’16/Trump ’20 voters. I wasn’t aware that there were any, at least not enough to swing an election.”
Determined to find one, I set about making calls, but promising leads quickly fizzled. A Republican Party official in North Carolina gave me the number of a friend who, it turned out, had not voted for Clinton after all. A Republican operative in Florida texted “😂 ” when I asked if he knew anybody. (“Ha! None that would talk about it.”)
A staffer in a county Republican Party office in Pennsylvania said she’d try to find people for me, but she later told me she’d spoken with the Trump campaign, and was advised not to cooperate. Next I tried a local Republican leader in Philadelphia. He told me about another local Republican leader in Philadelphia. And that led me to a rooftop deck in Philadelphia last month for a masked face-to-face interview with one of the election’s elusive outliers.