Perry Bacon, Jr. has a post up at FiveThirtyEight, discussing “How ‘Never Trumpers’ Crashed The Democratic Party.” Bacon covers a lot of ground about the segment of Republicans who have become disillusioned with the head of their party, as well as the ones who were against him from the outset of his 2016 campaign. One of the more interesting questions about the ‘Never Trumpers” is, will most of them vote for Democratic candidates down-ballot – expecially for the U.S. Senate – in November?
Some Never Trumpers have pointed out that Republicans can oppose Trump and still vote for Republicans down-ballot. They want the Republicans to hold a Senate majority, so they can continue to shape the Supreme, federal, state and local courts in a conservative direction. For that goal, they are willing to endure another term for Mitch McConnell as Majority Leader.
Others, including Steve Schmidt, have argued that the GOP needs a thorough ass-whupping in November, in order to regain its senses and rebuild into a semblance of its more dignified and genuinely conservative identity of the not too distant past. It’s not hard to understand why many genuine conservative are embarrassed by Trump’s failed leadership and crass behavior. For good reason, they see McConnell as Trump’s enabler in chief, who should be defeated, even if Trump is re-elected. Without McConnell’s support, they believe Trump could be contained by the saner leaders of his party.
As Republicans George T. Conway III, Steve Schmidt, John Weaver and wrote in their New York Times article, “We Are Republicans, and We Want Trump Defeated,”:
The 2020 general election, by every indication, will be about persuasion, with turnout expected to be at record highs. Our efforts are aimed at persuading enough disaffected conservatives, Republicans and Republican-leaning independents in swing states and districts to help ensure a victory in the Electoral College, and congressional majorities that don’t enable or abet Mr. Trump’s violations of the Constitution, even if that means Democratic control of the Senate and an expanded Democratic majority in the House.
Bacon mines some data and notes.
“Trump won around 90 percentof self-identified Republican voters in 2016, similar to past GOP presidential nominees. About 90 percent of Republicans have approved of Trump throughout his first term, similar to George W. Bush’s standing in his first four years in office. And with Trump as the face of the party, Republican congressional candidates won around 90 percent of the GOP vote in the 2018 midterms, just as in recent midterm elections. There is really only one anti-Trump figure among the 249 Republicans on Capitol Hill: Sen. Mitt Romney…Polls also suggest most Republicans will be strongly behind Trump this November too — he is getting about 90 percent of the Republican vote in head-to-head match-ups with the presumptive Democratic nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden.
…Conservatives who really hate Trump probably no longer identify as Republicans — 11 percent of Republicans switched their party affiliation between December 2015 and March 2017, according to Pew. But surveys suggest that the share of Democrats switching affiliation in that same period is about the same. It’s hard to be precise about this: Data suggests at most 10 percent of American voters overall are anti-Trump but generally lean Republican.1 That’s not nothing, but between 40 and 50 percent of Americans are likely to vote for Trump in November.
Never Trumpers played a role in Democratic victories in the 2018 midterms, although the extent of their contribution is unclear. as Bacon notes:
It’s hard to quantify exactly how many anti-Trump conservatives backed Democrats in 2018 and how big a role they played in Democrats taking the House and winning many key governor’s races. But that temporary alliance between “Never Trump” Republicans and Democrats was strengthened in 2019 for two reasons. First, “Never Trump” Republicans found there was little appetite in the GOP for a primary challenge to Trump — another illustration of their declining influence within the party. And second, in a final blow for some of them, Republicans largely stood by Trump even as details emerged about his efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate the Bidens.
The third possibility is that Never Trumpers will vote for the most genuinely moderate candidates down-ballot, or not vote, or vote for a third party candidate when the choice is between an unnaceptable liberal or a Trump enabler. In every race, Democratic senate candidates in competitive races would be wise to pay close attention to the down-ballot views of Never Trumpers in their districts.