Dem 51
image description
GOP 49
image description

Always Trumpers Won't Give Up

Sarah Longwell is a never-Trump Republican who serves as publisher of The Bulwark, and who runs a firm that does polling and focus groups. Though she has clearly stated political preferences, there is no evidence that she makes up data or focus-group reports, and her results seem generally based in reality. She is also married to a woman, so despite being a Republican, she is not much of a culture warrior.

Yesterday, we mentioned a recent poll Longwell did that showed about 30% of Republicans have as their motto "Trump or bust." Nobody else will do the job and they are most definitely not going to change their minds. And if the Republican primary field is large enough, 30% could be enough to come in first and sweep all the delegates in the many winner-take-all primaries.

In addition to the polling about Trump, Longwell has been running many focus groups of Republicans. In groups where all the participants were chosen because they voted from Trump in 2016 and again in 2020, very few want him to run in 2024. The most common complaint is "too much baggage." They like him—that's not the problem—but they don't think he can win. Most of them are for Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL), who they describe as "Trump without the baggage."

Interestingly, Longwell also ran focus groups with Republicans who really, really like Trump, regardless of who they voted for in 2016 and 2020. The reactions were very different from the first set of focus groups. These are the always-Trump voters. They will go to their graves adoring him. They don't care about his misdeeds or legal peril. It's Trump or die for them.

One thought that emerged from the loyal Trump focus groups is that they recognize that many other people don't like him, but that doesn't mean much because they still adore him. Another observation is that other candidates are always compared to Trump. For example, DeSantis is "Trump without the baggage" or "Trump not on steroids." What they mean is that he gives them all the Trumpy stuff they love but they hope he won't alienate other voters.

Talking to these voters led Longwell to conclude that Trump could still be the Republican nominee because he has these things going for him:

Longwell's conclusion is that no matter what else happens (short of Trump's dying), Trump will be a serious contender for the GOP nomination next year simply because 30% of the Republican voters will accept no substitute. If the field is large and fractured, that will probably be enough. The only thing that might stop him is for all the other contenders to make a pact that they will all drop out and support whichever non-Trump candidate has the most delegates after super Tuesday. In principle such a pact made now does not favor any specific candidate. If the rest of the primaries were Trump vs. just one other candidate, that other candidate could win. But given the egos of all politicians, such a pact is very unlikely. Though Democrats came very close to doing something like that for Joe Biden in 2020, and clearing the decks once it was clear he was the frontrunner, so you never know. (V)

This item appeared on Read it Monday through Friday for political and election news, Saturday for answers to reader's questions, and Sunday for letters from readers.                     State polls                     All Senate candidates