Primaries Over, But Anti-Trump Republican Vote Is Alive And Kicking

DeSantis and Haley
Gov. Ron DeSantis and former Gov. Nikki Haley debate in Iowa on January 10, 2024

While we were all parsing the idiocy of Judge Aileen Cannon, presidential primary votes were being counted in several states around the nation this week. Okay, both Joe Biden and Donald Trump wrapped up enough delegates to secure their nominations last week, so turnout was probably not that great. But an argument could be made that the results of primaries that don’t really matter tell us more than results of primaries that do. Once the nomination is in the bag for candidates, it’s their hard core supporters who turn out to vote in the rest of the primaries.

So how did Republican nominee Donald Trump do? I don’t think you’re going to be surprised to hear that his support among Republican primary voters is still sagging, and in the states where comparisons can be made to his 2020 results – recall that many Republican primaries and caucuses were canceled because of COVID in 2020 – his support is lagging.

Let’s take Illinois and Florida, both of which managed to hold 2020 primaries. Yesterday in Illinois, Trump received 80 percent of the vote against Haley’s 14 percent and DeSantis with 2.8. In Florida, which Trump now calls his home state, Trump got 81 percent yesterday, while Haley pulled down 14 percent. The state’s governor, DeSantis, got 3.7 percent of the vote.

But that’s not the news that should have their numbers scaring Trump. In 2020, Trump won 96 percent of the Illinois primary vote, and in Florida, he won 94 percent. So, he’s running 16 points behind his 2020 numbers in Illinois and 13 percent behind his 2020 total in Florida. His lagging numbers don’t count in solidly Democratic Illinois, which Biden will carry easily in November.

But folks, Haley and De Santis aren’t even running anymore, and between them they managed to get 17.7 percent of the primary vote in Florida.

In Kansas, it was worse. Trump won 75.5 percent of the vote. Haley won 16 percent, and get this, 5.2 percent of Kansas Republicans voted for none of the names shown, which was also an option on the Kansas ballot.

In Arizona, a state Biden won in a tight race in 2020, Trump is also in big trouble. Trump won 77.9 percent of the vote, while Haley and DeSantis, neither of whom campaigned in the state or had campaign operations there, combined to get 20 percent of Arizona Republicans to vote against Trump.

We are looking at a significant anti-Trump vote, and it’s among Republicans. Arizona is a battleground state this year, as it was in 2020, so every vote is going to count. And Donald Trump can’t even convince 20 percent of Republicans to vote for him in the primary.

In Georgia, another battleground state that went to Biden by a slim margin in 2020, Trump managed 84.5 percent of the vote in the primary last week, while 13.2 percent of Republican voters decided they would vote for someone whose campaign for president isn’t even operating anymore – Nikki Haley.

Trump’s numbers were terrible in the early states of Iowa and New Hampshire while Haley was still running. In both states Trump lost over 40 percent of the vote to Haley, and in South Carolina, he lost about the same percentage to her again.

That the anti-Trump Republican vote is still hanging on even after he’s become the nominee means that a significant percentage of Republicans are sending a message to the man who’s going to be asking them to turn out for him in November. At least some of them have already made up their minds they won’t vote for him in November, which means they probably won’t turn out to vote at all, so they’re lost to him. But it’s the rest of what the pundits are calling “the Haley voters” who have got to worry Trump the most. They are probably prepared to hold their noses and vote for Trump in November, but if something happens between now and then that bothers them, like a loss in a criminal trial in New York or some sort of sweating, babbling breakdown at a rally even the New York Times will be forced to put on its front page, Trump is bound to lose more of those voters.

In a presidential race that one pundit after another is saying will come down to several hundred thousand voters in a few states, there isn’t any way these primary vote totals are good news for the Donald Trump for president campaign.

Trump is being reminded week after week that he can lose this election. His fund raising is sick and getting sicker. He’s facing multiple felony counts in multiple jurisdictions. His rally rants are getting weirder and wilder.

It’s starting to get to him. Watch this space.

Lucian K. Truscott IV, a graduate of West Point, has had a 50-year career as a journalist, novelist, and screenwriter. He has covered Watergate, the Stonewall riots, and wars in Lebanon, Iraq, and Afghanistan. He is also the author of five bestselling novels. You can subscribe to his daily columns at and follow him on Twitter @LucianKTruscott and on Facebook at Lucian K. Truscott IV.

Please consider subscribing to Lucian Truscott Newsletter, from which this is reprinted with permission.

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