There is mounting evidence that Nikki Haley’s coalition will not be big enough to prevent Donald Trump from receiving the Republican presidential nominee as the South Carolina Republican primary draws near. But there’s mounting proof that her alliance can defeat Trump in the general election if her voters are really as estranged from him as they claim to be.
The early GOP contests’ support for Haley has perhaps more precisely defined the elements of the Republican electorate most disillusioned with Trump than ever before. In order to overcome the overwhelming dissatisfaction shown in surveys on his own performance, President Joe Biden will most certainly need to win over a large number of people who typically lean towards Republicans if he faces Trump again this autumn in a potential rematch.
The kind of GOP primary voters who showed the highest support for Haley—voters who are college educated, philosophically centrist, and leaning Republican—are also the ones who would likely vote for Trump in a general election, according to most polls. The majority of Haley’s backers hold extremely negative opinions of Trump, according to polls of those who voted in the New Hampshire and Iowa primary contests. If Biden can allay or at least calm the fears of those voters regarding his age, strength, and record, he may have a window of opportunity to make even more progress in the coming months.
A Democratic consultant from California named Ace Smith said, “If there’s anything that should be sending warning flares up in the sky for the Trump people, this is it.” Smith was alluding to the high percentage of Haley voters who are critical of the former president.
The evidence of the early Republican results and polls of GOP voters nationwide regarding the Trump-Haley battle are sending the party a clear but conflicting message, according to long-time GOP strategist Michael Madrid. Madrid advised the anti-Trump Lincoln Project in 2020.
One the one hand, according to Madrid, these signs prove that “there’s not a lane for anyone else to get the nomination: This is Trump’s party.” Madrid, however, stated that the identical research demonstrates that “Trump is entering this race significantly weaker with the Republican base than at any time since he secured the nomination in 2016.”
As seen in national surveys conducted over the past few years, the initial phases of the 2024 GOP primary race have essentially validated the party’s fractured views towards Trump.
Polls show that between 20% and 30% of self-identified GOP partisans have always had negative opinions of Trump, especially when it comes to his involvement in the rebellion on January 6, 2021, and his larger attempt to reverse the 2020 election outcome.
As an example, according to a recent national survey conducted by the Washington Post/University of Maryland, 19% to 23% of Republicans and leaning independents agreed that Trump was heavily responsible for the riot on January 6. They also believed that Trump “threatened democracy” when he called on his supporters to march on the Capitol that day, that he was probably guilty of the criminal charges against him for trying to overturn the 2020 election, and that the assault on January 6 “was an assault on democracy that should never be forgotten.”
Similar to how one-quarter of Republicans would characterise the assault on the Capitol as an uprising and an effort to depose the US government, a new CBS poll was issued on the third anniversary of January 6. Pardons for the January 6 rioters, which Trump has hinted he will grant if re-elected, are opposed by approximately one-third of Republicans, and approximately three-in-ten Republicans felt Biden had legally won the 2020 election.
Moreover, slightly under 25% of Republicans and independents leaning towards the Republican Party had an unfavourable opinion of Trump in the most recent HEADLINESFOREVER nationwide survey carried out by SSRS. Nearly the same percentage thought the party’s chances of winning in November would be higher if they nominated someone other than Trump. Of the Republican primary voters surveyed for a nationwide NBC News poll that was released on Sunday, 22% thought that “the Republican Party needs a new leader with better personal behaviour and a different approach” compared to Trump, while 14% thought that “Donald Trump was a good president, but it is time to consider other leaders.”
The percentage of Republican-leaning people who are critical of Trump is far lower than the party’s majority on any of these concerns. Haley has finally gotten the one-on-one contest against Trump that his Republican critics have craved since 2016, but she faces a difficult uphill struggle against him for the nomination. That explains it.
The former governor of South Carolina has shown in New Hampshire and Iowa that the party’s small but vocal anti-Trump faction can unite to defeat him in the general election, even if he lost both races. Trump may find it challenging to overcome the defection of even a small portion of his own supporters in the general election, assuming he achieves that level of support, given the current partisan division in the country.
According to Alan Abramowitz, a political scientist from Emory University, even if only approximately one in ten typically Republican supporters “would defect if Trump is the nominee, that’s potentially significant in a close election.”
Voters in Iowa who were opposed to Trump split their support between Haley and Ron DeSantis, the governor of Florida, who abandoned his campaign; in New Hampshire, on the other hand, they rallied around Haley as their only remaining choice. According to entrance and exit polls done by Edison Research for a consortium of media organisations, including HEADLINESFOREVER, the GOP voters who rejected Trump in each instance exhibited comparable demographic and ideological traits. There was a noticeable difference in Trump’s support between college educated and non-degreed voters in every state, and between independents and partisan Republicans as well. Additionally, he scored worse among non-evangelical Christians than among evangelical Christians, and he trailed behind among moderates and folks who deemed themselves “very conservative” in comparison to him.
“This is not a casual vote, it’s a really thought-out vote,” said Celinda Lake, a long-time Democratic pollster who advised Biden’s 2020 campaign. Policies, temperaments, and criminal cases are all part of the larger schema surrounding it. It’s a well-rounded perspective of Trump.
During the two preliminary races, people in Haley’s state were especially critical of Trump and his claims on the 2020 election. Results from the entrance poll of GOP caucusgoers in Iowa showed that nearly 40% of Haley voters believed that Trump would not be qualified to serve as president again in the event of a conviction; likewise, 40% of Haley Iowa voters believed that Biden had rightfully won the 2020 election.
Over 40% of New Hampshire Haley voters felt Biden had a right to victory and that Trump would not be re-elected if found guilty. A whopping eighty-five percent of Haley’s backers expressed their discontent with the nomination of Donald Trump.
Trump also saw red flags in the AP/NORC VoteCast survey. According to that survey, over three quarters of Haley’s New Hampshire voters and over two-thirds of her Iowa backers stated they would not support Trump in the general election.
In South Carolina, where the state’s crucial GOP primary is scheduled to take place on February 24, a survey of GOP voters published last week by the Washington Post/Monmouth University revealed that Trump is currently leading Haley by a commanding 26 percentage points. The poll did, however, echo Edison’s warnings in New Hampshire and Iowa over Trump’s chances in the general election.