Hillary Clinton received the backing of Rep. Richard Hanna of New York on Tuesday. Hanna is the first Republican member of Congress to say explicitly that he will vote for Clinton in the fall rather than just expressing opposition to Trump. Hanna may not be the last elected Republican to jump to Clinton, but he illustrates the contours of anti-Trump Republicans nicely: The most anti-Trump GOP voters look a lot more like John Kasich’s supporters (and Hanna) than Ted Cruz’s.1
There seem to be two main camps of Republican opposition to Trump. One, embodied by Kasich, objects to Trump on experiential and temperamental grounds — Trump is playing to cultural grievances on issues such as immigration, and the Kasich camp wants a more inclusive GOP. The other, embodied by Cruz, objects to Trump on ideological grounds — he’s not a conservative, they argue.
Both Cruz and Kasich have refused to endorse Trump. But, as Hanna shows, the Kasich camp appears to be the one more likely to oppose Trump in the general election.
During the primary season, Kasich did best in the Northeast and East North Central Census divisions. He also scored big with the well-educated and liberal-to-moderate Republicans. All of these characteristics match Hanna, a college-educated moderate from the Northeast. Among all Republicans who match these descriptions, Trump got just 65 percent to Clinton’s 20 percent and 15 percent undecided in a June SurveyMonkey poll2 done for FiveThirtyEight. That is, to put it mildly, incredibly poor for a Republican presidential nominee among a subset of Republican voters. In the same poll, Trump got 85 percent among all voters who either identified as Republicans or leaned toward the GOP.
Cruz voters, on the other hand, are examples of a very different animal. After Cruz declined to endorse Trump at the Republican convention, Cruz faced some revolt from his own Texas delegation. This comports with the idea that voters who match the profile of Cruz’s supporters in the primary are mostly backing Trump. Cruz did best in the Mountain West, West North Central and West South Central Census divisions (i.e., Kansas, Texas and Utah). He also did well among self-identified conservatives and those who attended church at least once a week. In the SurveyMonkey poll, Trump earned 90 percent to Clinton’s 5 percent among Republican and Republican leaners who match these descriptions.3 That is, Trump is doing far better among people who look like Cruz voters than he is among Republicans overall. Another way to put this is that the conservative base of the Republican Party seems to be betting on Trump.
What do the Hanna endorsement and the polls suggest going forward? It seems that the 2016 race is continuing a long-term trend of the Republican Party. As I wrote before, the Republican Party power structure has been trending away from voters who look like Kasich supporters to Republicans who appear most inclined to back Trump in the fall. Trump may be a different kind of candidate, but he seems to be accelerating but not otherwise changing existing trends.