by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Donald Trump got about the same percentage of the Republican vote (about 90 percent) as John McCain won in 2008 — slightly less than Mitt Romney’s supposed 93 percent in 2012. If Romney’s 93 percent is the standard of party fealty (Obama usually pulled in about 92 percent of the Democratic vote), then it is hard to know whether the 3 percentage points fewer of Republicans who could not stomach McCain were about the same as the 3 percentage points fewer who were Never Trump. In either case, 90 percent party loyalty was not good enough for McCain, and even 93 percent did not win Romney an election. Both, unlike Trump, lost too many Reagan Democrats and Independents in the swing states of the Electoral College.
So the present civil war did not translate into much in 2016. United or divided, the Republicans have lost the popular vote in four out of the last five national elections — 2000, 2008, 2012, and 2016 — not because large numbers of Republicans voted for the Democratic candidate, but because there are not enough Republicans to begin with. And their candidates were not able to capture enough Independents and Democrats, or to motivate enough first-time or lapsed Republicans to register and turn out to vote, or to flip new demographic groups to conservatism.
Trump won no more of the voters who turned out and who identified as “conservative” than did Romney. But again, Trump apparently did get Democrats, Independents, and lapsed and previously uncounted Republicans to vote in key states in a way that Romney and McCain did not. The few Republicans that Trump lost were more than made up by others who were won over.