But most of these women say their thinking evolved over time as they weighed the foibles of the president against sins of the elites, whom they viscerally distrust. For instance, during the focus groups I convened throughout Trump’s impeachment, few of the women had anything nice to say about Trump’s actions. But their real contempt was reserved for Democrats and “the media,” whom they viewed as unnecessarily adversarial to Trump. And the plain fact is that they were unwilling to give much weight to an argument about the rule of law and abuse of power, because it didn’t have a visible impact on their lives.

But the pandemic has. In fact, it has created a noticeable shift in support away from Trump and toward Biden.

Before the pandemic, when focus-group participants were asked how things were going in the country, they would always split their responses into two separate categories. They thought things were going well in terms of the economy—and thought Trump didn’t get enough credit for the relative peace and prosperity the country was experiencing. They also said that the mood of the country was dark and divided, and used terms like “powder keg” to describe their inchoate concerns about the future. They worried that the president’s rhetoric and recklessness would eventually have consequences.