In Latest Primaries, Two In 10 Republicans Are Still Voting Against Trump

WASHINGTON — Two weeks after his last opponent dropped out of the Republican presidential race, coup-attempting former President Donald Trump is still seeing one in five GOP primary voters cast a ballot against him — potentially spelling trouble for his hopes to win back the White House.

In Ohio, which Trump carried easily in both 2016 and 2020, Trump won 79% of the vote in Tuesday’s primary to former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley’s 14%.

In Kansas, a solidly Republican state in presidential elections for decades, Trump got only 76%.

And in Florida, where Trump barely squeaked out a win in 2016 and only won by 3 points in 2020, Trump received 81% to Haley’s 14% and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ 4%.

(Haley and DeSantis still appeared on those ballots, but Haley dropped out on March 6 and DeSantis back in January.)

“It’s a problem for him. There is no conceivable reason for him to be leaking 20 percent at this point other than protest,” said David Axelrod, the Democratic consultant who helped Barack Obama win the presidency in 2008. “He needs to reel those folks back in but is still mired in base rhetoric that may only harden their resistance.”

“It’s something they ought to take seriously,” said David Kochel, a veteran Republican consultant from Iowa. “I think many will come back to Trump but there is a subset that are true ‘Never Trumpers.’”

Trump campaign officials did not respond to HuffPost’s queries on Tuesday night’s totals, which mirror previous results from the Georgia primary on March 12 and a number of states on March 5’s Super Tuesday contests.

The numbers have some members of the Republican National Committee warning that Trump’s inability or unwillingness to reach out to supporters of other candidates could contribute to Democratic President Joe Biden’s reelection come November.

“After any primary, the winner needs to secure the base,” said Haley Barbour, an RNC member from Mississippi who supported Haley in the final months of her primary run. “Trump is the central figure to securing the base and growing it. The more he makes people feel welcome and included, the more voters he’ll bring to his coalition.”

“I think many of these may be hardcore anti-Trump people who will not vote for him in November. It’s going to be a problem for the campaign,” said Oscar Brock, an RNC member from Tennessee. Brock had warned for months that nominating Trump — who attempted to remain in power despite having lost reelection, is now under multiple felony indictments and was found by a court to have sexually abused a woman and then lied about her — was not a smart strategy.

Other Republicans believe that the vast majority of GOP voters who spurned Trump in the primaries will come around to support him by November, just as they did in 2016 after a long slog of a primary with multiple candidates.

But just how many GOP voters will return to Trump is difficult to predict eight months out from the election. An exit poll of GOP voters in Ohio Tuesday found that 16% of Republicans said they were unlikely to vote for Trump in the general election. Of that group, 9% said they’d likely vote for Biden instead.

The March 5 exit poll from Virginia — a blue-tinted state some Trump allies have said could be a potential pickup for him — found that 27% of GOP voters said they would not support Trump in November. In North Carolina, which Trump barely won in 2020 and which the Biden campaign is targeting, that figure was 14 percent.

Exit polls from 2020 showed that in Arizona, Georgia and Wisconsin, three states that voted for Trump in 2016 but which Biden won by thin margins in 2020, Republican voters who backed Biden played a determinative role.

Brock said that was the likely outcome again. “The anti-Trump fervor is stronger now. As long as the election is about Trump, not a referendum on Biden, Biden will win,” Brock said. “I think he’s going to win anyway.”

Trump, whose repeated lying about the 2020 election having been “stolen” from him riled up his followers into attacking the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, is facing two criminal cases resulting from his actions leading up to and on that day.

A federal indictment could go to trial as early as late summer, depending on the timing of a Supreme Court ruling on his claim that he is immune from prosecution. A Georgia state prosecution based on his attempt to overturn his election loss in that state could also start later this year.

A New York state prosecution on charges that he falsified business records to hide hush money payments ahead of the 2016 election could start as early as next month, while a second federal prosecution based on his refusal to turn over secret documents he took with him from the White House to his South Florida country club has not yet been set for trial.

In 2023, a New York jury found that Trump had sexually penetrated writer E. Jean Carroll against her will in an incident in the 1990s, finding him civilly liable for sexual abuse. The federal judge in the case later clarified that Trump’s actions were rape in the “common modern parlance.”