Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Only the New York Times would use the line "only 54 percent of likely primary voters" unironically.

 I know you're tired of reading these because I'm certainly tired of writing them, but here we go again


 What if, Knowing What They Know Now, Republicans Don’t Vote for Donald Trump?

The Editorial Board

But almost certainly before then, he will have to answer to Republican voters. His grip on the party has proved enduring but not universal; while he is far ahead of the other candidates, a recent New York Times/Siena College poll showed that he is the choice of only 54 percent of likely primary voters. And about half of Republican voters told pollsters for Reuters/Ipsos that they would not vote for him if he was convicted of a felony.

For more than eight years now, the New York Times has been consistently and embarrassingly wrong about Donald Trump and the Republican Party. I strongly suspect this is mainly due to the difficulty the publisher, editors, and star reporters have letting go of false balance, and the paper's above-mere-politics self image. 

Whatever the reason, it has repeatedly led them to deny the obvious. Given the current state of the race, unless Trump collapses on stage or flees the country or we get some other black swan event, there is little chance he does not get the nomination. Not only is 54% a big number (as is 49%), but the current make up of the party makes the picture facing a not-Trump even more bleak.

At the beginning of this year, at least 80% of Republican support went to two candidates who were either Trump or someone to the right of Trump. DeSantis got on the map by being more extreme on LGBTQ persecution, racist policies, abortion and the one issue where Trump was most vulnerable on the right, vaccinations. Vivek Ramaswamy has also run to the far right, and while there is some question as to whether his recent surge in the polls is real, if we do trust the numbers, then as of August 20, no one with over 5% support is less extreme than Trump Even if you combine the support for the three "moderates" (Christie, Hutchinson, and Hurd), it still adds up to less than 5%.

Putting aside the disturbing thought that Trump is in the ideological center of today's Republican Party, this means that, even if Trump loses a substantial part of his support, a challenger would still have to attract GOP voters from both the left and mainly the right of the former president to get a plurality, the latter group including anti-vaxxers and actual nazis.

 The most common mistake pundits make when thinking about not-________ candidates is assuming that voters oppose the front runner for compatible reasons, so that a single electoral messiah can just step in and sweep them all into the fold. This is almost never true. 

If I had to rank the reasons of not-Trump Republicans, I'd say:

1. Electability

2. Not sufficiently far right on certain issues

3. A criminal

This hypothetical candidate who will come in and save the party will have be perceived as electable,  will have to appeal to the hard liners which means taking unpopular stands on issues like abortion, and will have to steal a large chunk of the former president's supporters, most of whom are not going to support anyone who isn't at least election denial adjacent. This savior, who is almost certainly not one of the declared candidates, will have to do this while fending off vicious attacks from Trump, and do so without alienating his supporters or seeming to side with the Democrats. 

Add in the cautionary tale of what happened to Ron DeSantis, and it's difficult to imagine a GOP A-lister wanting to try.


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