Trump and his Republican base are actively scaring away undecided voters - spelling potential disaster in the election

Trump seems to show little interest in reaching out to Nikki Haley’s voters — and that could hurt him, Eric Garcia writes

Friday 08 March 2024 09:15 GMT
PALM BEACH, FLORIDA - MARCH 05: Republican presidential candidate, former President Donald Trump speaks at an election-night watch party at Mar-a-Lago on March 5, 2024 in West Palm Beach, Florida. Sixteen states held their primaries and caucuses today as part of Super Tuesday. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
PALM BEACH, FLORIDA - MARCH 05: Republican presidential candidate, former President Donald Trump speaks at an election-night watch party at Mar-a-Lago on March 5, 2024 in West Palm Beach, Florida. Sixteen states held their primaries and caucuses today as part of Super Tuesday. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images) (Getty Images)

Upon the news that Nikki Haley would suspend her campaign, former president Donald Trump and President Joe Biden sent out dueling messages indicating what they thought about her voters.

Trump, for his part, said that Haley got “TROUNCED” on Super Tuesday, given that she lost every contest that night save for Vermont. He added that he “would further like to invite all of the Haley supporters to join the greatest movement in the history of our Nation” and called Biden “THE ENEMY.”

By contrast, Biden released a much more conciliatory statement. Directly addressing those who had voted for Haley, he said, “I want to be clear: There is a place for them in my campaign,” despite their differences.

In response, Haley campaign spokeswoman Olivia Perez-Cubas posted on X/Twitter “A tale of two statements”, showcasing both. And when Kari Lake — the failed Republican candidate for governor of Arizona-turned-candidate for Senate — tweeted calling Haley her birth name “Nimrata,” Haley’s communications director Nachama Soloveichik echoed the words of Meghan McCain when Lake trashed her late father, Senator John McCain: “No peace, b***.”

Nikki Haley drops out of 2024 presidential race

The end of primaries always expose raw feelings. Candidates and their staff often devote a great deal of time to their campaign away from their families and slogging it out on the road. Therefore, it’s often up to the victor to win over those who voted for their competitor. But Trump and his movement seem wholly uninterested in winning back those Haley-curious voters he needs to win.

Winning campaigns know they need to let the healing begin as soon as the primary ends. When Barack Obama beat Hillary Clinton, he knew he had a weakness with the white working-class voters who bolstered Clinton in places like Ohio. That led to him picking Biden as his running mate. He also made sure to elevate Clinton on the campaign trail in an effort to win over female voters who felt disappointed.

In 1980, Ronald Reagan’s insurgent conservative campaign astutely made the genteel Texan George H W Bush his vice president as an olive branch to the old Republican establishment whom he had just conquered.

Trump shows no interest in diplomacy. Rather, he takes pleasure in the total dominance of his opponents. It has worked for him in the past. In 2016, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul bent the knee to Trump after he humiliated each of them in turn, mocking their height, their wife and their physical appearance respectively. On Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell — who called Trump “practically and morally responsible” for the riot on January 6 — endorsed him and he will exit Senate leadership at the end of the year.

Trump recently said, “We’re getting rid of the Romneys of the world.” In a similar vein, when Lake ran for governor, she said McCain Republicans needed to “get the hell out” — a move which likely cost her the governorship. But the problem is that the voters who previously voted for Mitt Romney in 2012 and who voted for Haley in the primary are now leaving the Republican Party.

On Super Tuesday, Haley continued her trend of eating into Trump’s leads in suburban areas. In Virginia, she won in the Washington suburbs of Alexandria and Fairfax County, as well as Charlottesville — the home of the University of Virginia — and tony neighboring Albemarle County. That’s a sign that the old country-club Republicans are not sold on him.

Trump’s campaign might argue that Virginia is an open primary state. But in neighboring North Carolina, which had a partially closed primary where Democrats could not vote but unaffiliated voters could, Haley got within single digits in Wake County — which includes the suburbs of Raleigh — and Mecklenburg, which includes the suburbs of Charlotte.

Senator Thom Tillis, the Tar Heel state’s most astute Republican politician, told The Independent that Trump has work to do in the suburbs. “Primaries are a little bit different, because they're really focused on the other candidate, but now it's all about painting a vision for how you can fix a lot of the problems that the Biden administration’s created,” he said.

Last week, Tillis told me he had not endorsed Trump, but on Wednesday, he gave a half-hearted endorsement, telling me, “We've got to get behind the presumptive nominee and support them.”

Senator Susan Collins — one of four Republicans left in the Senate who voted to convict Trump after January 6 and who last week said she’d voted for Haley — told me she was not supporting anyone.

But the actual Mitt Romney — who, despite losing to Mr Obama in 2012, performed well in the suburbs — said that Trump still has some strong structural advantages.

“I think he's in a very strong position,” he told me. “And if you asked me that bet today, I would certainly bet that Donald Trump will be the next president.”

Yet the rest of the GOP is becoming MAGA-fied, which will only make the party less attractive to the types of voters who broke for Haley. Lake is all but guaranteed to become the nominee for Senate in Arizona. Meanwhile, during my talk with Tillis, it became clear Republicans have a problem in another swing state: North Carolina.

Mark Robinson is the Republican nominee for North Carolina governor, and he has been beset with controversies. Robinson has a history of making bigoted remarks, including Facebook posts where he said the Holocaust was “hogwash” and implied that Jewish people are in control of the finance world. Robinson has said that those posts were “poorly worded” but “not antisemitic”.

Senator Sherrod Brown, the Democratic Senator running for re-election in Republican Ohio, came over to talk to Tillis while we were in conversation. He ribbed Tillis about the nominee for North Carolina governor his party was having to rally behind. Of course, Democrats hope that Republicans’ error there will be their gain.

All Tillis could do in response to Brown was to laugh and tell reporters, “Mark Robinson is the nominee. He’s got to go out there and build a case for people in North Carolina.” It wasn’t exactly a ringing endorsement.

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