Almost 7-out-of-10 of Sen. Ted Cruz’s supporters have an unfavorable opinion of Donald Trump, and fewer than 30 percent have a favorable view of the New Yorker, according to survey data from Morning Consult.
This wasn’t always the case. At the end of 2015, of all his challengers, Trump’s favorable numbers were highest among Cruz supporters. More than half of Cruz’s backers, 53 percent, had a favorable view of the real estate developer. Just 39 percent of Cruz supporters had an unfavorable view of Trump.
By comparison, 60 percent of Sen. Marco Rubio’s supporters had an unfavorable view of Trump and just 38 percent had a positive opinion.
The positive feelings between Trump and Cruz supporters were even more reciprocal in the other direction. Among Trump’s backers, 61 percent had a positive view of Cruz, while only 21 percent had a negative view.
Among Trump’s supporters, in fact, Ted Cruz had a higher favorable rating than any other rival for the nomination.
Each were the top second choice of the other’s supporters.
Now, however, only 62 percent of Cruz’s supporters will commit to supporting Trump in November against Hillary Clinton.
The numbers for Trump among John Kasich supporters are much worse. Almost 80 percent of Kasich backers have an unfavorable view of Trump. Barely half, 51 percent of the Ohio Governor’s supporters, say they will definitely support Trump in the general election. Amazingly, one quarter say they would back Clinton over Trump.
Kasich, obviously, has little support among Republican voters nationally. He does, however, have considerable support in Ohio, a state critical to any Republican hoping to win a general election.
Naturally, some of the Cruz and Kasich dissidents will ultimately return to the Republican fold, and Trump’s campaign, before November. It is normal in a primary for animosities against the winner to be highest at the point a candidate concedes. The prospect of the opposing party winning the White House will soothe many wounds.
There are two factors in this campaign that are unprecedented, though. First, Trump has dispatched his rivals with more personal, rather than substantive, attacks than is normal in recent campaigns.
Perhaps the weirdest moment of the entire campaign was Donald Trump’s bizarre attack on Ted Cruz’s father Tuesday morning, claiming he was possibly involved in the assassination of John F. Kennedy. It strains credulity to even address such a reckless and wild allegation.
That Trump’s attack came on the day he was widely predicted to win the Indiana primary and solidify his position as the presumptive nominee made it particularly tone-deaf. At the precise moment Trump ought to have been trying to unify support from his challengers, the attack will likely leave a lingering, unpleasant aftertaste.
Trump’s opposition, especially in Cruz’s case, are not simply some subsample of the overall electorate. Cruz’s widely acknowledge success winning delegates through local and state Republican conventions shows deep support within the party’s most energetic activists.
Trump and his supporters repeatedly decried his failure to win over local and state delegates as evidence of a “rigged” system. The system isn’t rigged in any meaningful way, but it is dominated by a small number of the most committed Republicans who shoulder almost all the day-to-day operations that fuel the party.
The activists who regularly attend precinct-committeemen meetings and dutifully attend city, county and state conventions regularly are the hard-core base of the Republican party. They are also the individuals who do the lion-share of the grunt work in elections.
These individuals make up a disproportionate share of Cruz’s supporters. They powered his success in the very hard task of winning over delegates, even while he was polling far behind Trump in surveys of the broad electorate.
The broad electorate, where Trump won an impressive campaign for the nomination, does vote, but it rarely does the grunt work necessary to win a general election. Those that do are the activists Trump’s needs to rally to win in November.
The good news for Trump is that, with Cruz’s unexpectedly early exit from the race, he has time to mend these fences. The worrying news, though, from the Morning Consult survey, is that there are a lot of fences to mend.