Looking through the New Hampshire exit poll, I was struck again by how broad Trump’s support is. Like past front-runners, he wins with moderates, but he also gets significant support from all kinds of conservatives. Unlike Cruz, whose support is heavily concentrated among the “very conservative” voters, Trump draws evenly from all ideological groups. Unlike Kasich, he is very competitive among conservative voters despite deviating from the party and movement line much more often than the Ohio governor has.
Oddly enough, his vote total in New Hampshire will be very close to Romney’s in 2012, and with 97% of precincts reporting Trump’s total (97,627) is even a little higher than Romney’s was (97,532). Trump also received many more votes than McCain had in 2008 (88,571). Judging by that standard, he had more success in New Hampshire than either of the last two front-runners.
I imagine that is partly due to Trump’s own grab-bag of policies that offers a little something for every kind of voter, and it is probably because Trump is vague enough about many of his positions that voters can interpret them to mean whatever they want. Another important factor may be that he isn’t constrained by the limits of party or movement orthodoxy. That allows him to appeal to a large bloc of Republican voters for whom hewing to movement litmus tests doesn’t matter, and that is very attractive to voters that distrust and loathe party and movement elites. As Rod Dreher mentioned this morning, Trump offers his own explanation for the success he and Sanders are having, and it may be as simple as this:
We’re being ripped off, and he and I are the only people saying that.
That not only rings true to millions of people because it is true for them, but it connects with voters viscerally in a way that stale and outdated slogans never could.
It is almost a truism at this point that the candidates that movement conservative elites consider the most unacceptable is the one that receives the most support from Republican voters, and by the same token the candidates that movement conservatives like the most are often much less competitive. It was taken for granted at one time in the 2012 cycle that Romney couldn’t possibly be nominated because of his health care deviationism, but there were enough voters that didn’t care or saw that as a plus. Movement conservatives were so eager to find someone to stop McCain in 2008 that they absurdly decided on Romney as their champion. In this cycle, they made some belated attempts at denouncing Trump as a charlatan and usurper, but in so doing they showed how little they understood the rank-and-file of their own party. They aren’t the only ones.
As Michael Brendan Dougherty notes in his column today, Byron York found that local party leaders in New Hampshire didn’t know any Trump supporters and had no idea who these people might be. York followed up on that earlier report today, quoting one of Trump’s supporters explaining why party leaders were so oblivious to what was happening right under their nose:
“I think like most establishment Republicans, they thought if they kept promoting the narrative that Trump was a passing fancy and he would collapse, it would happen,” Gargiulo told me. “But this phenomena is the result of 25+ years of failed promises and lackluster leadership over multiple administrations from both parties. People have had it, and those in power don’t want to accept the reality they can no longer maintain the status quo.”
People have had it with being ripped off, and they know that it will continue if they settle for another conventional candidate. Trump is winning because more voters think Trump gets that in a way the other candidates don’t, and unless that changes dramatically in the next few weeks Trump seems likely to keep on winning by equally impressive margins.