The establishment wing of the GOP officially caved to Donald Trump the moment Minority Leader Mitch McConnell confirmed last week that he would “absolutely” support Trump for president in 2024 if he were nominated.
McConnell’s declaration ensured that what was once presumed to be a chance for the Republican Party to retool in a post-Trump era is now simply a gruesome extension of the Trump era.
But while damn near all the GOP congressional lawmakers charged with leading the party have now surrendered the entire Republican enterprise to Trump, it’s worth noting the existence of discontent among a small but still meaningful group of Republican and conservative-leaning voters.
Numerous political analysts have fixated on Trump’s hold over the party while failing to acknowledge his potential for dooming the GOP electorally. One data point many have touted is an oft-cited Politico/Morning Consult poll taken last month following Trump’s acquittal of impeachment charges that found 54% of Republican voters/leaners would choose Trump in a primary contest if it were held today. The poll also found that 57% of Republican voters/leaners believed Trump should play a major role in the Republican Party moving forward.
So, true, it’s Trump’s party for the most part now. But if you dip into the crosstabs of that poll, 17% of GOP voters said Trump should only play a minor role while another 18% wanted him to play “no role” at all. That’s a decent chunk of the Republican electorate that is reflective of at least a portion of the party’s voters who cast a vote for Biden last November while still choosing to vote for GOP candidates down ballot. While it’s hard to know exactly how much that slice of the anti-Trump conservative electorate has grown since his cultists stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, the Politico/Morning Consult survey shows that a sizable slice of the GOP coalition has completely soured on him. It’s not the majority by a long shot, but it’s more than enough to potentially sink Republicans in a general election where razor-thin outcomes are poised to determine winners/losers for the foreseeable future.
In fact, while Trump won the straw poll at the Conservative Political Action Conference last weekend, he didn’t exactly dominate it. Trump won the survey of potential Republican 2024 candidates at 55%—not a ringing endorsement given how Trumpy the leanings of the crowd at this right-wing conspiracy-laden conference. But perhaps even a bigger surprise was the fact that only 68% of conference goers wanted him to run again—suggesting that a decent swath of the GOP coalition has misgivings about Trump. That’s not a dominant starting point for Trump given that he spent most of his term hovering around 90% approval among Republican voters.