In the latest shock for the GOP, which in recent weeks some have speculated is willing to scuttle the entire republican presidential campaign if it means not having Trump as the candidate, according to a just released Reuters poll, one third of Republican voters who support Donald Trump could turn their backs on their party in November’s presidential election if he is denied the nomination in a contested convention.
Or, as The Hill puts it, “blocking Donald Trump from the Republican presidential nomination with a contested convention would spell disaster for the GOP” because instead Trump supporters would vote Democrat, vote third-party or sit out the election.
Just 66% of Trump supporters, which as of this moment are the most numerous of any presidential candidate, said they would support the GOP’s nominee anyway.
Should it get to a contested convention, the GOP could be hurt even more in November because 58% of Trump supporters said they would stay with the party, while 16% would leave and 26% responded they didn’t know, yet.
The results are bad news for Trump’s rivals as well as party elites opposed to the real estate billionaire, suggesting that an alternative Republican nominee for the Nov. 8 presidential race would have a tougher road against the Democrats.
“If it’s a close election, this is devastating news” for the Republicans, said Donald Green, an expert on election turnout at Columbia University.
The Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted March 30 to April 8 asked Trump’s Republican supporters two questions: if Trump wins the most delegates in the primaries but loses the nomination, what would they do on Election Day, and how would it impact their relationship with the Republican Party?
This is what the respondents said:
Meanwhile, 58 percent said they would remain with the Republican Party. Another 16 percent said they would leave it, and 26 percent said they did not know what they would do with their registration. The online poll of 468 Republican Trump supporters has a credibility interval of 5.3 percentage points.
Trump, whose supporters have remained loyal even as he rankled women, Hispanics, Muslims, veterans and others with his fiery rhetoric on the campaign trail, predicted last month there would be riots outside the convention if he was blocked.
“If they broker him out, I’ll be fed up with the Republicans,” said Chuck Thompson, 66, a Trump supporter from Concord, North Carolina, who took the poll .
Cited by Reuters, Thompson, a lifelong Republican, said he admires Trump’s independence from big campaign donors and takes that as a sign that the front-runner will be able to think for himself if he were to become president.
If Trump loses the nomination, Thompson said he would quit the party. “The people want Donald Trump. If they (Republicans) can’t deal with that, I don’t need them,” he said.
Green said the departure of even a small number of Republicans would make it tough for the party to prevent the Democrats from winning the White House, especially if the election is again decided by razor-thin margins in a handful of battleground states.
What is paradoxical, is that Trump and Cruz both trail Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton among likely general election voters in a hypothetical general election matchup, but not by much, according to the latest Reuters/Ipsos polls. The only Republican candidate who, again according to polls, can best Hillary Clinton is Kasich, the one candidate who has virtually no shot of becoming the candidate.
In other words, the GOP is likely damned if it goes to convention, and damned if it doesn’t.
Then again, the death of the GOP would not have to wait until November: if and when it does get to the contested convention one can call the time of death.
Generally, a convention battle is a bad sign for the health of a political party, said Elaine Kamarck, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. “When a party gets to a point when it has a contested convention, it almost always hurts them,” Kamarck said. “It’s a confirmation of some really deep fissures within the party that were unable to be dealt with during the primary season.”
And then there are hard core Trump supporters such as Elizabeth Oerther, 40, of Louisville, Kentucky, who would go all the way, saying she would switch parties and vote for the Democratic nominee if the Republicans denied Trump the nomination.
“If you don’t give it to him, I’m going to vote against them,” said Oerther, who took the poll. “They want to take away the choice of the people. That’s wrong.”
* * *