Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Do high profile Republican endorsements matter when Republican voters are tepid on the GOP itself?

Posted By on Wed, Feb 17, 2016 at 1:58 PM

click to enlarge NIKKI HALEY: The South Carolina governor is supporting Marco Rubio. - GAGE SKIDMORE / FLICKR
  • NIKKI HALEY: The South Carolina governor is supporting Marco Rubio.

If you follow Arkansas Republicans on Twitter, you've been seeing a whole lot of Marco Rubio boosterism lately. The latest news of the day that's being trumpeted as proof of Rubio's inevitable triumph: South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley will endorse his candidacy, according to Politico and other sources. 

Haley's endorsement may indeed give Rubio a boost in the GOP primary coming up this Saturday in her state, though he still lags Donald Trump and (by an increasingly small margin) Ted Cruz in polling averages.

Maybe Rubio will overtake Cruz by this weekend, but Trump's lead looks unassailable. And considering an increasingly prominent part of his preposterous, combustible brand is to stick his thumb in the eye of the Republican Party itself, it's hard to see Haley's endorsement making that much of a difference to Trump's core of support within the GOP.

That's because many his supporters have little loyalty to its the party itself, an issue the New York Times dug into today while exploring the fact that Trump's latest supposedly disastrous comments — this time, lambasting President George W. Bush for the Iraq War and, to some extent, 9/11 — have once again proved to not be so disastrous after all, at least according to polling numbers:

[N]umerous military veterans interviewed at Trump rallies in South Carolina this week, including Mr. Jebens, said they had no problem with Mr. Trump’s comments, even if they did not entirely agree with him.

At the same time, the stubborn popularity of Mr. Trump, who defies Republican orthodoxy on issue after issue, shows how deeply the party’s elites misjudged the faithfulness of rank-and-file Republicans to conservatism as defined in Washington think tanks and by the party’s elected leaders.

The dichotomy is particularly vivid here in South Carolina, the most conservative state on the nominating calendar so far, where Mr. Trump holds a double-digit lead over his closest rivals in the latest polls.

“In a lot of senses Republicans have overestimated how much dedication to ideology was motivating their voters,” said Ben Domenech, publisher of The Federalist, a conservative online journal.

For this week's issue of the Times we rounded up Arkansas legislators who've endorsed a presidential candidate thus far. Rubio has tons, Cruz has quite a few and Trump has none. I'm not aware of any elected official in Arkansas who's declared their support for Donald Trump; somehow, I don't think he cares much. (For the record, among the Democratic legislators who've made endorsements thus far, all are supporting Hillary Clinton.)

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