The Republican Party is ceasing to be a cohesive party. In Wisconsin, one-third of Republican primary voters wouldn’t vote for either of the party’s leading candidates in the general election. As NBC News analyzed:
When asked what they would do if [Ted] Cruz were the GOP nominee in November, only 65 percent of Wisconsin Republicans said they’d vote for him. The remainder instead would vote for a third-party candidate (18 percent), vote for Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton (7 percent) or not vote at all (6 percent).
The numbers got slightly worse for the Republican Party when voters were asked to consider [Donald] Trump as the GOP nominee. Just 61 percent said they’d vote for the brash businessman, with the rest defecting to a third party (16 percent) or to Clinton (10 percent)—or simply staying home (9 percent).
Wisconsin may be a particularly dramatic case, but we have national poll evidence of a breakdown in party unity. A CBS/New York Times poll from last month found that 17 percent of Republican primary voters would not vote for Trump in November, and 19 percent wouldn’t vote for Cruz.
There are signs of Democratic disunity too, but not as severe. In that CBS/NYT poll, 10 percent of Democratic primary voters say they wouldn’t vote for Hillary Clinton, and 9 percent say they wouldn’t vote for Bernie Sanders.
Some of this can be attributed to springtime trash talk. In 2008, there were Clinton supporters who said they would abandon Barack Obama, but that did not materialize in numbers of significance.
But the brewing Republican schism runs deep. As I previously wrote in The New Republic:
The Republican divide today is in some ways even harder to reconcile, because it is about race … The ABC/Washington Post poll makes it plain: Trump’s proposal to “temporarily” ban Muslims from entering America neatly divides the GOP, with 52 percent supporting. His determination to forcibly deport undocumented immigrants does slightly better at 55 percent. Both proposals are flatly rejected by the broader electorate by nearly two-to-one…
…Republican leaders have known for some time that the party needs to diversify in order to be electorally competitive in a demographically changing America, even admitting so in a public “autopsy” of the 2012 elections. But lingering racism among its rank-and-file has made that pivot impossible.
Even if the party delegates, recognizing that Cruz and Trump are certain general election failures, turn to a fresh face on the convention floor, that schism is not going to be erased. The fault line is real. It is deep. And party leaders need to come to grips with the possibility that it may not be bridgeable.