Don’t Buy the Never-Trump Comfort Blanket

I keep seeing Trump skeptics and their media svengalis say that while Nikki Haley is not coming close to beating Trump in any primary battle, she is getting sufficient support to conclude that there is a critical mass of Republicans who don’t like Trump and may not turn out for him in November, and boy is he in big trouble because of this.

Don’t buy it.

I note that back in 1980, the Michigan primary was held May 20, and even though Ronald Reagan was well on his way to securing the Republican nomination, George H.W. Bush still pulled off an upset in that primary, beating Reagan by 150,000 votes. (Bush also beat Reagan in the Pennsylvania primary in April.) Michigan looks to be the kind of state that favors moderate Republicans.

When all the primaries were over, Reagan had received a cumulative 7.6 million votes, while Bush had received 3.1 million, with John Anderson a distant third with 1.5 million. But add Bush and Anderson’s totals together with the also-rans (Dole, Baker, Connally, Phil Crane, etc) and you conclude that Reagan’s majority was less than a landslide (7.6 million to 4.6 million for the rest of the field—certainly a much smaller margin than Trump’s margin in the current contest. Despite the massive doubts about Reagan—his age, his “controversial” opinions, etc—he walked away with a landslide.

But, you hear, Trump is essentially running as an incumbent, and should have incumbent-level margins. This is an unimpressive argument, especially when you allow for the circumstance, not seen since 1912, of a former president coming back to challenge for the nomination. To the contrary, Trump is running far ahead of his totals from the 2016 contest. He’s gotten stronger, not weaker, since 2016.

P.S. For trivia buffs, Harold Stassen got 25,000 votes in the 1980 GOP primaries.

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