Trump Broke the Record for GOP Primary Votes. So what?

Jim Hoft is excited about the fact that Donald Trump garnered more than 13 million votes in the Republican primaries, over a million more than George W. Bush’s 2000 record. Fair enough: Trump’s performance in the primaries surprised everyone, no doubt including Donald himself, and deserves to be celebrated.

But how much does Trump’s record mean for the general election? Not a great deal, I think. Nor do Hillary Clinton’s primary totals mean much, even though around 2 1/2 million more people voted for her than for Trump. Primary turnouts are small, even in a year like this one. In 2012, Mitt Romney got over 60 million votes, and lost. In order to win in November, Donald Trump will need the votes of five times as many people as supported him in the primaries.

Probably 15%-20% of those votes will come from people like me, who voted for someone else in a GOP primary but will choose Trump over Hillary Clinton. Where will the remaining 40 million-plus votes come from? Some will come from Republicans and Republican leaners who didn’t vote in the primaries, but most will have to come from non-Republicans. Most of those 40 million ballots will have to be cast by people who are only lightly engaged in the political process and do not tend to favor the GOP.

That isn’t to say that Trump can’t win; on the contrary, I have predicted that he will win, although his performance in recent weeks has not inspired confidence. The point is that the general election audience is very different from the primary audience. Trump is going to have to broaden his appeal vastly if he wants to win in November. Is there any sign that he understands this, and has a plan to accomplish it? Not that I have seen.

Meanwhile, Trump’s intellectual laziness and lack of discipline have allowed the Democrats to portray him as a bigot. The Democrats are passing out these stickers to their faithful:


They say: “By displaying this sticker you’re taking a public stand against Trump and his bigotry!” Some people think that the Democrats calling Trump a racist only adds to his appeal, but I think that is wrong. It may have done so in the Republican primaries, where voters are sick of the Democrats’ smear tactics, but general election voters, most of whom are ill-informed, likely will recoil from such accusations.

It remains to be seen how this will all play out, obviously. For now, the point is that Donald Trump’s record-setting performance in the primaries tells us little about how he will fare with the much larger general election audience in November.

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