Poll Shows Republicans Less Committed to Trump in Defeat
Republican primary voters strongly backed Donald Trump for the presidential nomination, but the party is far less sure if it wants him to lead the GOP if he loses in November.
When asked in the latest Bloomberg Politics poll who should be the face of the party nationally in the event of a Hillary Clinton victory, likely voters who are or lean Republican splintered down a list of five options.
A plurality, 27 percent, picked vice presidential nominee Mike Pence. Trump got 24 percent, ahead of Texas Senator Ted Cruz at 19 percent, House Speaker Paul Ryan at 15 percent, and Ohio Governor John Kasich at 10 percent.
The poll’s findings showed the extent to which Trump, with his hardline positions on immigration and trade, has triumphed among the party’s supporters over Ryan, with his vision of a pluralist conservative party that focuses on cutting taxes and spending.
When asked which leader better represents their view what the Republican Party should stand for, 51 percent of likely voters who are or lean Republican picked Trump, while 33 percent picked Ryan and 15 percent said they weren’t sure.
“What is clear in these data is that a large segment of Trump supporters are all-in with the candidate. They see him as capable of delivering on the promise of a greater nation. That said, just 38 percent of them say they will stay loyal and follow his future endeavors if he does not win,” said pollster J. Ann Selzer, who oversaw the survey ahead of the final debate Wednesday. “If he were to lose, our data suggest his standing would diminish.”
Trump’s sliding popularity among party faithful may be another sign that his leadership would be less than welcome, especially since it already pales in comparison to the last nominee.
In the latest Bloomberg Politics poll, Trump’s favorability rating was 76 percent among likely voters who are or lean Republican, down from 81 percent in late September. Mitt Romney, the Republican Party’s last nominee, was seen favorably by 91 percent in a Bloomberg poll in September 2012.
“I think Ryan’s got the future of the party and Trump will be rubble after this election,” said Mike Murphy, who ran Jeb Bush’s super-PAC in 2016. “I’m not sure there is a Trump wing. I think there is a temporary Trump invasion,” he said, positing that it will fizzle if Trump loses in a landslide.
Amanda Rudolph, a participant in the poll who supports Republicans, predicted that Trump would have trouble leading the party in defeat.
“This really is Trump’s only shot,” she said. “You couldn’t have Trump be the face of the GOP because he has the GOP so divided anyways.”
Yet Ryan’s favorability is fading faster than Trump’s, dropping 11 points to 50 percent since September among likely voters who are or lean Republican.
In the overall race, Trump trailed Clinton by 9 points among likely voters, winning 85 percent of likely voters who are or lean Republican in a hypothetical two-way contest with the Democratic nominee—less than Romney’s 93 percent of Republicans in 2012 exit polls or John McCain’s 90 percent in 2008.
Even among anti-Trump Republicans, there is dissent as to who should lead the party. Stuart Stevens, the chief strategist for Romney’s 2012 campaign, said he doesn’t believe it should be Ryan. He’d prefer to see the next leader be a figure who has opposed Trump, like Kasich, Senator Ben Sasse, or Senator Jeff Flake.
“Paul Ryan is for Trump. He thinks Donald Trump is qualified and should be president of the United States,” Stevens said. “You can’t support Donald Trump and un-ring that bell.”
Stevens said he’s not optimistic the party will wrest back control from Trump, fretting that right-wing figures will monetize a Trump loss by drumming up animosity toward Clinton and maintaining demand for a populist firebrand.
Speculation about the creation of a Trump TV network after the election was fueled this week by a Financial Times report that Trump son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner had held informal talks about the idea. Top campaign adviser Stephen K. Bannon responded to CNN’s question on Wednesday about the possibility this way: “Trump is an entrepreneur.”
“Donald Trump is out there with a suicide vest on and the Republican Party is pulling the cord,” Stevens said.
Likely voters who are Democrats or lean that way were also split on the future leader of their party if their nominee loses, dividing between Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders and, to a lesser extent, Senator Elizabeth Warren.
The poll of 1,006 likely voters, conducted Oct. 14-17, included 404 Republicans and those who lean that way. The margin of error for the full poll is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points and is 4.9 percentage points among that subgroup of Republicans and independents who lean Republican.
—With assistance from Tyler Kendall in New York.