Trump Won with the Working Class Voters the GOP Forgot
May 10, 2016
Where did all the Trump voters come from, and where did the Cruz evangelicals go? One of the great mysteries of the 2016 primary is how so many assessments of the Republican electorate turned out to be wrong. The primary electorate that gave us Donald Trump as the presumptive nominee was dramatically different from the one that chose Mitt Romney in 2012.
Jeb Bush thought there was a huge, quiescent moderate majority nostalgic for a return to the Bush era, or looking for a doggedly inoffensive candidate like himself, blessed with endorsements from all the right people and a campaign war chest so huge it was supposed to scare other candidates out of the race. Senator Rand Paul thought the GOP’s libertarian moment had arrived, driven by young voters who were deeply concerned about privacy issues in the online era and weary of interventionist foreign policy under Bush and Obama alike. Senator Marco Rubio thought he had crossover appeal to every faction of the Republican Party and so much electability that GOP voters would be crazy to turn him down. Governors like Rick Perry and Scott Walker thought voters in other states would be impressed by their successful resumes.
Most baffling was the miscalculation of Senator Ted Cruz, who was counting on a Southern conservative and evangelical firewall that should have made him an early front-runner. Cruz had every reason to think those voters were out there and every reason to suppose they would be unwilling to support Donald Trump, on both moral and policy grounds.
Instead, Trump cleaned up with evangelicals, and his eventual victory in the primary was heralded by many observers as a death knell for “movement conservatism.” At the very least, we were told, conservatives were in such disarray that they couldn’t unite around a candidate who could stop Trump, even though well over half the party didn’t want him as the nominee.
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