I have an old friend who attended the Donald Trump rally in Biloxi, Mississippi this weekend. He dressed up in his crispest red button-down, overalls, and white #MakeAmericaGreatAgain hat. He cheered, he waved, he tweeted and posted to Facebook about his excitement for the rally and Trump’s slogan of change. If he were ever called by a pollster, I have no doubt he would enthusiastically register his support for the orange-coifed billionaire.
There’s just one problem. My friend is a Democrat. And polls show he’s not alone. Not only is Trump supported by mostly liberal and moderate Republicans, he also attracts a fair amount of Democratic support.
We’ve all heard of Reagan Democrats and locally Republicans for John Bel Edwards, the recently elected governor of Louisiana. But my good friend isn’t supporting Trump’s campaign because a great leader has convinced his usual opponents of his worth. He doesn’t agree with Trump’s “ideas” (such as they are) or support his “vision” for America (such as it is). He does all this because he knows Donald Trump is Hillary Clinton’s best shot at the White House. And polls show he’s right there too.
Among the hundreds of thousands of Republican candidates who could face off against Hillary Clinton in November, Trump consistently fares among the worst in hypothetical polls. The only people with lower RCP averages in a general election matchup are Kasich and Huckabee, neither of whom have a chance to appear in that contest anyway.
Republicans should know better. They tried this exact troll campaign eight years ago, the last time Hillary Clinton ran for president.
In 2008 it became clear very quickly after primary votes started rolling in that John McCain would be the Republican nominee. Conservatives had little chance to stop him after the first few states had cast ballots. So some decided that instead of wasting their primary vote in a contest that was all but over, they’d affect one where they might still sway the outcome in their favor.
Operation Chaos was a Rush Limbaugh-directed plan to get Republicans to register as Democrats and cast ballots in state primaries for Hillary Clinton, under the assumption that Hillary would be easier to beat than Barack Obama.
The plan had some effect early on, with hundreds of thousands of Republicans-turned-Democrats voting for Clinton in a few states. Operation Chaos ultimately failed, of course. Obama won the nomination and the White House, proving Limbaugh right by default.
Democrats have the same opportunity to wreak havoc with the Republican primary this year. Clinton is all but assured the Democratic nomination, so her supporters would be better served casting ballots where they can be most effective. Swaying the GOP vote to Trump in just a couple early states could give him enough legitimacy and momentum to make the rest happen on its own.
“The rest” being another 8 years of Bill and Hillary Clinton in the White House, unfortunately.