Stan Greenberg has an important new article out in the New York Times online. His core argument, backed up by considerable data, is that there is a significant divide in attitudes between Trump’s base and the rest of the GOP–a group that is quite large and whose flagging enthusiasm and potential openness to Democratic appeals could loom large in the coming election.
Greenberg draws the picture as follows:
“President Trump surprised nearly all political analysts with his decision to govern as a militant Tea Party and evangelical conservative and to make this the heart of his strategy for the midterm elections. Each provocation and each dog whistle — if we can even call them that anymore — make Democrats even more determined to vote and to register their rejection of Mr. Trump’s remade Republican Party. In our polling of registered voters nationally and in the Senate battleground states, a remarkable 79 percent of Democrats strongly disapprove of Mr. Trump, a number that rose to 87 percent in a survey completed last week. Mr. Trump is making Democratic base voters even angrier than you might expect.
But each provocation also produces a reaction in the non-Trump remnant of the Republican Party, and that is the political reaction most observers are missing. Moderate Republicans are much more likely than the rest of the party to be college graduates, to favor abortion rights, to be relaxed about gay marriage and Planned Parenthood, and to believe that climate change is a human-created problem. They were feeling homeless in the Republican Party even before Mr. Trump’s triumph.
The Catholic and nonreligious conservatives base may not be as animated as Mr. Trump’s base is by attacks on the Republican establishment, free trade and Nafta. They are less worried about the Affordable Care Act and would amend rather than overturn it. And they are more like Republicans in the past who accepted the welfare state and the social safety net that earlier generations had bequeathed to them.
Mr. Trump’s ever more aggressive vision pushes his “strong” job approval to an impressive 71 percent with the Tea Party and to 62 percent with evangelicals, but that does not quite match the enthusiastic, anti-Trump reaction among all types of Democrat.
Mr. Trump’s red meat strategy gets a decidedly less enthusiastic response with Catholic and nonreligious conservatives: Less than half of them strongly approve of Mr. Trump’s performance. The enthusiasm gap between the Tea Party and moderate Republicans stands at a stunning 40 points: 71 percent of Tea Party supporters strongly approve of Mr. Trump, compared with 31 percent of moderates.
As of now, those muted reactions to Mr. Trump among these other Republicans are translating into reduced interest in the elections and a potentially lower turnout in November…..
Mr. Trump’s base strategy has allowed him to take over the Republican Party and to marginalize and defeat those who will not get with the program, but it has also unified Democrats around their values and created an opportunity for anti-Trump Americans to engage with these Republican voters, even (and especially) if Mr. Trump will not.
It may be as straightforward as reminding them why the Trumpified Republican Party needs to be repudiated in November. They may be looking for a genuinely conservative party. But these voters may also be open to voting for Democrats.”