Carefree, Arizona (CNN)In this bedroom community north of Phoenix, two gray-haired white residents stand silently at a dusty intersection, holding up homemade signs in the blistering 100-plus-degree heat.
It only takes a few minutes before Linda and Tom Rawles, holding “Black Lives Matter” and “Justice 4 George” signs, hear a clear and now familiar scream from a passing motorist — suggesting this Republican-stronghold suburb of 4,000 is anything but free of cares. “Every life matters!” screams a woman from a red SUV. “Get a f***ing life!” A few minutes later, another driver waves an obscene gesture out of his window.The Rawleses wave or hold up peace signs with their fingers, unmoved by the negative feedback. Politically, the Rawleses describe themselves as independents but remain lifelong Republicans. Both have worked in Arizona’s Republican Party and have run for Congress as Republicans. In 2016, they voted for Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson. Read MoreThis November, the Rawleses say, they will vote for Joe Biden over President Donald Trump. They’re among the group of independent voters who say they prefer the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee. A number of national polls in the last few weeks show Trump trails Biden among independents, a group he narrowly won in 2016.Recent polling shows independents now favor Biden. In Arizona, that shift is also seen in polling.”I’m not Antifa,” jokes Linda Rawles, 61. But the registered Republicans, in just the last few weeks, have been moved by the nationwide protests against police brutality and racial injustice, the response to the coronavirus pandemic and the economic recession to this corner. “I think the last three to six weeks have been a turning point,” says Tom Rawles, 70. “We can always fight over the issues. But we need to cut out the cancer that is infecting the body politic of America.”That cancer to their party, the couple says, is Trump. “We’ll support Biden not because we agree with him on issues,” Linda Rawles says, “but he’s a decent, kind, sane man. I’ve considered myself a Republican since I was 13. We’re not at home in our party. We’re not Democrats. We don’t have anywhere to go.”Former Republican operative Tim Miller sees this group of political homeless voters as ripe for shifting in 2020, because now “their personal lives are being directly impacted by Trump,” he says. Build your own road to 270 electoral votes with CNN’s interactive map It’s a philosophy Miller himself has held since 2016, when he was an outspoken “Never Trumper” who made efforts but failed to convince other Republicans to not vote their party. In 2020, he’s part of a more targeted campaign to convince white, suburban Republicans to abandon Trump, called Republican Voters Against Trump.The group, made up of famous anti-Trumpers like conservative writer Bill Kristol, has launched a $10 million digital and television advertising blitz in battleground states, which include Arizona. But ads are not what’s driving the group’s 2020 effort — it’s elevating the voices of disappointed moderates and Republicans. On its website, Republican Voters Against Trump has posted hundreds of personal stories from people across the country. Spokeswoman Priya Gada tells CNN the site has received tens of millions of organic views. “In 2016, people disapproved of Trump personally but still voted for him,” Miller says. “Concerns about him have come home to roost with the virus, the economy and the instability in their communities with the protests. Those reservations about Trump? Well, it’s getting real now.” There also remain the Republican voters who aren’t sure what they’ll do on Election Day. Cheryl Coons, 56, a cardiac nurse on the front line of the Covid-19 crisis, would agree the issues in 2020 are real for her, professionally and personally, but she remains uncertain how she’ll vote in November. The self-described moderate is also a “registered, card-carrying Republican,” she says. “I have always identified with issues on both sides of the political spectrum and struggled with both parties.”Coons, who is recovering from pneumonia suspected of being caused by Covid, doesn’t blame the President for her illness or the pandemic, saying the administration did what it could given the enormity of the outbreak. Coons also remains confident that Trump would lead the country best in an economic recovery. But what is making her consider voting for a Democrat for the first time in her life, she says, are the sustained protests and pain she’s seeing on America’s streets. “I feel like we need more of a sense of unity and, and no antagonism on this issue at all,” says Coons, who voted for Trump in 2016. “And I don’t feel I see that being fostered. We have to come together as a people and we need a leader that’s going to help us do that, not poke the bear.” Coons says she tries not to discuss politics with her friends, because nearly all of them are unmovable politically. In a time of such polarization, she says, it’s a little nerve-wracking talking about being a moderate. Coons says it’s not too late for Trump to change her mind, though. Because when it comes to her vote, “I honestly don’t know yet.”