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Why some conservatives are voting in Michigan's Democratic primary

"This is why we get do-overs," said one former Trump voter.
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump waves as he takes the stage at a \"Thank You USA\" tour rally in Grand Rapids
President-elect Donald Trump takes the stage at a "Thank You USA" rally in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on Dec. 9, 2016.Mike Segar / Reuters file

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Katey Morse is on a journey of political atonement.

"I've gone on Facebook and apologized to family and friends and said hey, I made a mistake," the 39-year-old Michigan resident said last year of her 2016 vote for Donald Trump.

Morse said that she got caught up in Trump's celebrity and was impressed by his business record. And she assumed that the bravado she saw and heard on TV was just a character put on for the campaign trail that would subside once he got into office.

But she said she had learned since then that it wasn't an act. A turning point for her came in March 2019, when she took her son to a Trump rally. She was horrified. Afterward, Morse had to have a conversation with the boy, then 7, about how not to talk about other people.

And as the Democratic primary season began to take shape last year, Morse started to consider voting blue.

It's a choice some moderate Republicans across the state are also grappling with ahead of Tuesday's Democratic primary contest. NBC News spent time with voters in Kent County, where Morse lives, just outside Grand Rapids. The hometown of Gerald Ford, the area is a traditionally Republican stronghold. Some Republicans here said they feel lost because they no longer recognize the party they grew up with. They're wary enough about another four years of Trump's presidency to consider the Democratic candidates.

Michigan could be crucial for both Democratic candidates as they prepare to face Trump. Trump beat Hillary Clinton in Michigan by less than 1 percent in 2016, but his net approval here has decreased by 18 percentage points, according to Morning Consult.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., won Michigan in the 2016 primary, but recent polling shows former Vice President Joe Biden leading by over 20 points.

Whether conflicted conservatives vote for a Democrat in November may depend on the nominee. Earlier in the primary, NBC News spoke to some moderate Republicans who were excited at the prospect of voting for Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota or former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

Hal Ostrow, 45, a lawyer who also lives in Grand Rapids, had enthusiastically chanted "all the way with Amy K" but said he'd likely vote for Trump if Sanders wins the nomination.

Morse, who is not registered with a party but considers herself an "independent Republican," also said she can't see herself voting for Sanders in November, but she insists she still wouldn't vote for Trump.

"This is why we get do-overs," she told her husband, Andrew, who is still a Trump supporter.

She added: "At the end of the day, the idea for me is to get Trump out of the office. And so I'm just going to support Biden in this race and hopefully can go all the way in November."