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On Trump’s Befuddling Hold on the GOP and the Fizzling of the ‘Never Trump’ Movement

Clarence Page, Tribune Content Agency on

I’m so old that I can remember when moderate Republicans such as Colin Powell, former secretary of state, clung to hopes that Donald Trump might “grow” into the presidency.

I don’t hear much talk like that nowadays with Trump leading the polls for the Republican nomination again and his remaining opponent Nikki Haley not expected to win even the primary this coming Saturday in her home state of South Carolina.

Here we go again. Ever since Trump surged into the lead in the 2016 primaries, his iron grip has grown tighter around the GOP, pushing it further to the right, even as it also has led to Democratic victories in congressional swing districts.

Latest case in point: Tom Suozzi easily wrested New York’s 3rd District from the GOP in a special election last Tuesday to replace scandalized Republican congressman George Santos.

Still, as much as supporters of moderate alternatives to Trump have rallied to Haley’s side and continue to donate to her campaign, Trump has maintained a polling lead so formidable that the race to the nomination appears to be all over except for the actual voting. In South Carolina, Trump had a 36-point lead over Haley in a recent poll.

That brings a cloud of gloom over what’s left of the “Never Trump” movement, the band of former Republican operatives in groups such as the Lincoln Project and Republican Accountability Project, who have been working since Trump’s 2020 election defeat to prevent his return to the White House.

 

If there’s one thing Never Trumpers have proven, it’s that they’ve never come close to loosening Trump’s hold on the Republican base.

“It’s now clear to me that we never had a chance,” my column-writing colleague David French recently wrote in The New York Times. “And the reason is equally clear: We did not truly understand our own party.”

French’s confession was that it dawned on him only gradually that animosity — not support for core conservative values — was the prime motivator for today’s GOP.

To me, that was a stunning observation, partly because it was so candid in a political world where candor so often is lost in a fog of excuses and sugar-coating.

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