Senator Lindsey Graham was the latest in a long stream of conservative lawmakers to declare that he would never vote for the Republican Party presumptive nominee, Donald Trump. This comes as no surprise, as South Carolina’s senior Senator has been forthright about his opinion of The Donald. Senator Graham even went as far as saying outright, “Donald Trump’s foreign policy… will lead to another 9/11.” Senator Lindsey Graham wasn’t the only high ranking GOP surrogate to express dissatisfaction with the presumptive nominee. The announcement came only one day after the highest elected official in the Republican Party, House Speaker Paul Ryan, said he “was not quite ready” to support Donald Trump in the general election against the likely Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton. He followed this statement up a week later by meeting with Donald Trump at the RNC headquarters in Washington, DC. After the much-anticipated discussion, Speaker Ryan said “it’s going to take more than a week to unify this party.” Although, he did insist that he and the presumptive nominee were gradually beginning the process of unification.
In the two days after Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Ohio Governor John Kasich suspended their presidential campaigns, more than 25 senior Republican officials explicitly announced that they would not even consider voting for the New York business tycoon. Included in this list are the only two living Republican Presidents, a previous GOP presidential nominee, and two previous Republican National Committee Chairman.
Needless to say, Donald Trump has his work cut out for him if he wants to unite the party and have a chance to combat the well-organized Democratic opposition in November. The problem is that the national landscape doesn’t exactly reflect the electorate of the Republican Primaries. Simply put, the American populace may be less willing to accept the sometimes controversial policy positions taken by Mr. Trump. A recent Gallup poll demonstrates the discrepancies Trump faces when trying to appeal to a more moderate audience. The poll asked 1,022 Americans what their most important policy issue was for the coming election cycle. As predicted, the majority of Republicans voiced their concerns over global terrorism (92% saying it was the most important), the economy (92%), and immigration (76%). What’s striking are the stark differences that Democratic and Independent responders said regarding their most important issues. Of the previously mentioned topics, only 82% said terrorism was their top priority, 85% said it was the economy, and 62% proclaimed immigration as their number one issue.
This could have serious consequences in the general election, when Trump will have to appeal to undecided and more moderate voters who will undoubtedly determine the election results. According to another Gallup poll the number of liberal Americans has caught up with the number of conservative Americans, constituting a near-even split that covers 61% of the total electorate. That leaves 39% of people up for grabs in key states like Colorado, North Carolina, Virginia, Florida, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. Historically these states have all but decided the outcome of presidential elections, and in a cycle that has brewed more partisan antipathy than any in the past two decades, these states are of even greater strategic value.
Despite all of the hurdles that could plague the Trump campaign, there is a bright side for this capamaign to nominally ending the primary process before the California primary on June 7th. First and foremost, this situation gives valuable time to the Trump organizational team to go into general election overdrive. This is a vital step in the election process, as the Trump campaign has taken a notoriously barebones approach to campaigning thus far. Once he gathers the right experienced and seasoned aides around him, Trump and his team can then begin the delicate procedure of rebranding a non-pc, indelicate, and unapologetic candidate into one that can win the voting trust of Middle America.
This move couldn’t be made at a more strategic time, as both candidates face tough unfavorable ratings heading into the general election. According to a CBS/New York Times poll, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are both going to have to address their staggering 52%+ unfavorable ratings. This marks the first time in the past two decades that a candidate from either party has emerged with so many wounds from the primary season. If there’s any silver lining for Trump in these polls, it’s that Hillary Clinton will still be getting bruised in the coming weeks, which gives the Trump campaign a head start and presents a clear opportunity to attack Clinton when she is most vulnerable.
Looking at past voting patterns, some pundits have been quick to assume that the November election will be extremely difficult for the GOP, but don’t forget that Trump’s team has six months to convince major party officials to hop on board the #NeverHillary train. The fact is there has been a quiet appeal to the “Establishment” wing of the Republican Party, and it has been slowly gaining steam since the end of April. Already two former Speakers of the House, the current Senate Majority Leader, a former GOP presidential nominee, more than six Governors (including Nikki Haley), prominent members of the media, and seven of the original seventeen former presidential candidates have endorsed the business mogul for the highest elected office. If anyone would take some convincing to get behind The Donald, it would be the previously-critical Nikki Haley, Senator Marco Rubio, and Senator John McCain (all of whom have thrown support behind the presumptive nominee)The acquiescence of these leaders in the GOP should send a vibrant message through the Party ranks that it would be in every Republican’s best interest to put a messy primary fight behind them and to get with the program.
The new drum beat that Donald Trump and his team will also champion, in true Trump fashion, is the catchy “ABC” mantra. This stands for ‘Anyone But Clinton’, and it’s a rallying cry for all conservatives to get behind the best chance to avoid what’s typically viewed as a continuation of the Obama administration’s policies. While Mr. Trump may not be the perfect candidate to all voters, he has proven to be acutely aware of what the conservative electorate wants out of a presidential candidate. Namely, voters want a candidate who stands for American exceptionalism, promotes the national economic interest, and ensures the safety of U.S. citizens at home and abroad. With the majority of Americans listing Immigration, Foreign Affairs, and the Economy among their top six most important issues, the Trump team has more than a fighting chance against Clinton in November.