When Gia Capriotti turned her television to the Republican National Convention on Wednesday, she was one of America’s increasingly rare undecided voters.
Until 2016, Capriotti, 40, had always voted for Republicans in presidential races. But four years ago, unable to stomach Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, she chose Jill Stein, the Green Party’s nominee.
“Threw my vote away,” she says.
This year, Capriotti, who lives in West Deptford, N.J., wants her vote to count. But she’s in a predicament. As an antiabortion Catholic, she considers the Democratic ticket a no-go. She finds Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) too extreme on abortion issues. And yet she also dislikes President Trump.
Wednesday was her first night of convention watching. As soon as she tuned in, she detected dissonance between what she had observed about Trump and what she was hearing.
On the screen, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany was telling a personal story. In 2018, because she was at high risk for breast cancer, she had a preventive mastectomy. After the surgery, President Trump telephoned her. “I was blown away,” McEnany said. “Here was the leader of the free world caring about my circumstance.”
Capriotti was skeptical. “Is this supposed to make us feel that he’s sensitive?” she asked. “I’m not buying it.”
She remained unmoved as she listened to Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president, sing his praises. “Now they want to soften him,” Capriotti said, “take away this brash, arrogant, self-centered man and try to paint a picture that he’s a soft, caring sensitive person.”
Capriotti, a divorced mother of a 19-year-old daughter, delivers groceries for Amazon. The pandemic has actually boosted her income. But she faults Trump for mishandling the crisis, initially refusing to take it seriously and then ignoring citizens who need help. “He’s reckless,” she said. “It’s just a wreck right now. Our whole government is a train wreck.”
Some antiabortion voters, who’d normally stick with a Republican ticket, have voiced similar qualms. Christianity Today, for instance, devoted a recent article to evangelicals who find many of the president’s actions antithetical to an agenda that values all human life. Among those quoted was Stephanie Ranade Krider, who opted to quit her job as executive director of Ohio Right to Life because the pro-life group was working to help reelect Trump.
Capriotti agrees Trump’s commitment to human life has been spotty. She supports much of his America-first agenda, but disapproves of separating families at the Mexican border. “That wasn’t right,” she said. “Children shouldn’t be held in places like that that are going to scar them forever.”
Early Wednesday evening, she mused that she might vote for a third-party candidate. Perhaps she’d vote for Trump “if Biden’s in the lead in a heavy way.”
But as speakers blasted Biden and Harris for supporting late-term abortions, their messages resonated. Capriotti nodded in agreement when Sister Deirdre Byrne, a Catholic nun and physician, contrasted Trump — “the most pro-life president this nation has ever had” — with Biden and Harris — “the most anti-life presidential ticket ever, even supporting the horrors of late-term abortion and infanticide.”
This characterization of Biden and Harris is false, according to fact-checkers and experts. The policies Democrats support generally limit abortions to the first 20 to 24 weeks of gestation. Most abortions are performed at eight weeks or earlier. Experts have told The Washington Post that abortions up to the moment of birth, what could be described as infanticide, are not happening in the United States.
Capriotti doesn’t consider herself “a pro-life radical person.” She supports funding for contraception. She’s okay with abortions in special cases, such as rape. But she remains aghast at the idea of late-term abortions. “What Biden and Harris stand for — that’s horrifying. A woman seven-months pregnant — that baby is experiencing pain and being ripped limb from limb. That’s torture.”
Capriotti liked the evening’s final speaker, Vice President Pence, whom she views as “more refined” than President Trump. Still, she took issue when he pledged, “we’re not just opening up America, we’re opening up America’s schools.”
“That’s not something to be proud of, buddy,” she said. Staying home isn’t fun, “but it’s what we need.”
On abortion, however, she was in agreement with Pence, who claimed that Biden supports taxpayer funding of abortion until the moment of birth.
By the time the vice president concluded, Capriotti sounded like a voter who’d chosen her candidate. “The more and more I think about Biden and Harris supporting abortion up to the moment of birth,” she said, “the more I think I have to vote for Trump.”
“But I’ll never be able to deal with his personality,” she said. “I’ll never like him.”
The most important news stories of the day, curated by Post editors and delivered every morning.