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The GOP sees a turnout disaster without Trump

Republican strategists are worried that if former President Trump fails to win the GOP presidential nomination next year, or if he stays off the ballot because of his mounting legal troubles, it could spell a turnout disaster for his party in 2024.

GOP strategists say there is growing concern that if Trump is not the nominee, many of his core supporters, who are estimated to make up 25 to 35 percent of the party’s base, “will take the ball and They will go home.”

“The conventional wisdom is that there is concern that if Trump is not the nominee, his coalition will take its ball and go home,” said Matt Dole, a Republican strategist based in Ohio, where Republicans they target vulnerable Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown.

“People are interested in how this plays out, and so I think right now, they’d be happy if Trump was the nominee, in Ohio, it’s not true across the country, because then their coalition will come out in November,” he said. to say.

A Pew Research Center analysis of the 2022 midterm elections released last month found that higher turnout among Trump voters last year was a key factor in Republicans gaining control of the House.

The analysis found that 71 percent of voters who supported Trump participated in the midterm elections, compared with 67 percent of voters who supported Biden.

Brian Darling, a Republican strategist and former Senate aide, said there would be significant political consequences for Republicans if federal and local criminal prosecutions derail Trump’s path to the nomination.

“If he’s somehow not the candidate, it’s going to affect turnout,” he said. “He’s got a unique coalition. He’s bringing a lot of non-traditional voters into the Republican Party, and it’s going to be hard to win a state like Ohio” and other Midwestern states “if you lose all those Trump voters or make them disgruntled voters and they don’t show up.”

Darling said Trump, who leads his closest challenger, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, by more than 30 points in national polls, has a “lock” in the nomination and “the only way to lose is if prevents him from being on the ballot.” “

Trump already faces three criminal trials in New York City, Miami and Washington, D.C., and Fulton County (Ga.) District Attorney Fani Willis is expected to bring a dozen more charges against him related to his efforts to nullify the results of the 2020 elections in Georgia. .

Trump is fueling concerns about a divided Republican electorate in 2024 by refusing to sign a pledge of allegiance from the Republican National Committee.

“I would say there are two scenarios, either Trump is the nominee and we just go with him and whatever, or Trump is not the nominee and then we have a nominee that Trump will trash,” said Bob Clegg, a strategist Republican based in Ohio. .

Given the intense loyalty to Trump among many Republican voters, Clegg said there was little chance of any other candidate beating him for the nomination.

“I think Trump will be the nominee,” he said. “Since Trump came down that escalator in 2015, the face of politics in America has charged dramatically, and we’re still in that new dynamic.”

Republican senators and strategists thought Trump cost them control of the Senate after the 2020 election, when he claimed without evidence that he lost Georgia to fraud, depressing GOP turnout in the special election in 2021, than Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-Ga). .) and Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) won.

Just days before the special election, Trump declared those Senate races “illegal and void.”

A Republican Senate strategist said Ohio’s special election last Tuesday, where voters overwhelmingly defeated a ballot proposal that would have made it harder to protect abortion rights, showed that if Trump doesn’t run, hurts GOP turnout in rural areas.

“What it says about the electorate more than anything is that without a presidential candidate, especially Trump at the top of the ticket, rural voters are not turning out at the same rate,” the strategist said.

At the same time, the strategist acknowledged that Trump’s overwhelming popularity among blue-collar and rural voters is offset by his unpopularity among college-educated women and suburban voters.

Given the shift of college-educated women and suburban voters to Democrats since the reversal of Roe v. Wade by the Supreme Court, Republicans are counting on heavy rural turnout and the so-called “Trump coalition” to win the presidential and congressional races. next year.

“With contentious issues like abortion in the suburbs, Republicans have to make up for it in rural parts of the state, and without Trump on the ballot, rural parts of the state just didn’t turn out at the same rate.” the strategist he said of the election result in Ohio.

“For Republicans, the only hope is that when Trump is at the polls in 2024 … rural voters will turn out at a rate that overwhelms this phenomenon. It’s certainly possible,” the source said.

David Paleologos, director of Suffolk University’s Center for Policy Research, said about 40 percent of Republican voters who feel confident about who they will vote for next year are firmly behind Trump.

“Conservatively, it looks like 4 out of 10,” he said of so-called Tier 1 voters. “I haven’t seen many polls where he’s below 40 [percent].”

“Trump voters, even from our polls, have pretty much said, ‘It’s Trump or he’s broke,'” he said. “There’s a percentage of voters who won’t even vote Republican if he doesn’t get the nomination.”

Paleolog said it’s difficult for other Republican presidential candidates to “navigate” this environment, and “Trump knows it.”

A New York Times/Siena College poll found that 52 percent of likely Republican voters only consider Trump. Fifty-five percent of white voters without college degrees and 56 percent of non-white voters without college degrees said they thought only of Trump.

Trump has rejected pleas from party leaders to pledge to support the eventual Republican presidential nominee if he fails to win the nomination.

“I wouldn’t sign the pledge,” he told Newsmax. “Why would I sign a pledge? There are people there that I wouldn’t have.”

Trump did not say which particular challengers he could not support President Biden.

Darling, the Republican strategist, said Trump is the candidate best prepared to win critical Midwestern states like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

“Look at what happened in 2016. He put together a unique coalition and the Midwestern states of Wisconsin and Michigan were suddenly up for grabs,” he said. “If he’s not the nominee in some way, I think those states are going to be a lot harder to win.”

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