Donald Trump’s victory in South Carolina doesn’t just give him momentum heading into the Super Tuesday contests on March 1st — his victory shows the emergence of a new coalition that is likely to reshape the Republican Party.
In short, Trump’s victory — and Jeb Bush’s exit — represents a blue-collar take-over of the Republican party. Trump’s victory, according to exit polls, was built on voters earning less than $100k with less than a college eduction.
Trump won voters with a high school education or less by 18 points. He won voters who had attended college or had an associate degree by 16 points. Together, these voters made up just under half (46%) of the Republican electorate.
Trump won college graduates, but by just 3 points. Voters who had post-graduate study, around one-in-five voters, broke strongly for Marco Rubio by 11 points. The second choice among these voters was Ted Cruz. Among all voters who had at least a college degree, Rubio won by 2 points.
Trump won every income group up to voters earning $100k a year. Among voters earning $100,000 to 200,000, Trump and Rubio split their votes.
Trump’s strength with these demographics goes a long way to explain his strong showing with evangelical voters. Trump edged Cruz by 4 points among evangelicals, 31-27. Rubio scored a respectable 22 percent with evangelicals. These voters made up 73 percent of Republican voters on Saturday.
Trump also ran very strong with veterans and voters in the military. These voters made up just 17 percent of the electorate, but Trump won them by 10 points. Trump won voters who hadn’t served in the military by just 6 points.
Trump’s strong finish is also due to the fact that he basically has created his own constiuency. Only 7 percent of Republicans are satisfied with the federal government. A slim majority of Republicans (52 percent) are dissatisfied with the government, but not angry. These voters went slightly for Rubio, followed closely by Trump and Cruz.
Forty percent of Republicans, however, are angry with the federal government. Trump won these voters by almost 20 points. Only 44 percent of Republicans want illegal immigrants deported, but these voters picked Trump again by almost 20 points.
Only 10 percent of Republicans said immigration was their top issue, but half of these voters gave their vote to Trump. He won these voters by 25 points. Votes from those who named all the other top issues — the economy, terrorism or government spending — split between Trump, Cruz and Rubio.
The same phenomenon arose over the question of whether voters want an outsider as President or a candidate with some experience. A slim plurality say they want a candidate with some experience, but these voters split their vote between Rubio and Cruz. Among the 47 percent who want an outsider, Trump won more than two-thirds of their vote, top the next highest candidate by almost 50 points.
When voters were asked their top quality in a candidate, a plurality said “shares my values.” These voters split between Rubio and Cruz. However, among voters who said “bring about change” was their top quality, Trump won their support by 23 points. For the 17 percent of voters who said they most wanted a candidate to “tell it like it is”, Trump took 77 percent of their votes.
There were essentially two different contests in South Carolina.
The traditional one contest was between candidates who share voters’ values, have a certain amount of experience, are upset with present policies, but not angry and who argue over the finer points of policy differences. That contest was a jump-ball between Rubio and Cruz.
The other contest was between Trump and politics in general. Not all the voters are angry, want radical change, want to deport illegals or prefer someone to “tell it like it is,” but a great number do want those things. Moreover, Trump has almost no competition for these votes.
Trump has formed a new winning coalition for Republican primaries. His coalition is a sizable chunk of the Republican electorate and shows no sign of abating at any time. With the economy tettering and world affairs nearing chaos, it is even possible this electorate grows in the coming weeks.
Many pundits expect that as more traditional candidates like Jeb Bush bow out of the contest, the non-Trump candidates will see a lift in their vote. That is certainly possible, but one shouldn’t bet the farm on it.
Trump is rewriting the Republican playbook. The party won’t be the same again.