Is the #NeverTrump movement becoming primarily a shell which is rapidly hollowing out?

The national polling is beginning to inevitably shift away from the primaries and more to the general election in November, hopefully providing some clarity as to the early condition of the race to come. Bernie is still in there fighting against Hillary, but it’s clearly a case of tilting at windmills at this point. (Barring a quick indictment of Clinton, anyway. The Superdelegates can always bail out Sanders if that’s the case.) On the GOP side there is a larger concern to be dealt with. Assuming Donald Trump is officially named as our standar bearer in Cleveland he will have a tough fight on his hands no matter which Democrat he faces. That challenge will be further compounded if he can’t solidify the support of his own party’s voters across the nation.

We are getting some of the earliest indications of how that will play out this week with the latest NBC News poll of general election preferences now that The Donald has cleared the field. The news isn’t great for the GOP, but hardly as bad as some of the doom and gloom prognosticators have been preaching. (See the full results here.)

Much of the focus has been on the top lines, as usual. They’ve still got Hillary beating Trump, but the gap is much narrower than has been previously advertised at 49 percent to 44. Sanders does considerably better, and NBC chooses to focus a fair amount of their coverage on that slice of the numbers. But there’s one highly interesting bit of data in here which you have to do some digging to find. How many Republicans (and Republican leaners) are ready to get on the Trump Train no matter which Democrat he faces? NBC starts off focusing on “young voters” under the age of thirty so they can continue highlighting Bernie’s strength in that group.

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About 30 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaners under 30 would vote for Sanders over Trump. The support Sanders gains among young Republican is surprising as research has consistently shown that party identification is the strongest predictor of vote choice. When faced with a Clinton-Trump ticket, 18 percent of Republican and Republican-leaning voters under 30 would support Clinton; 78 percent would support Trump.

Pay close attention to that last, highlighted figure. When NBC gets down to testing the number of Republicans who will support Trump in the general election against presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton, the figure for only those age 30 and under is 78%. What you have dig deeper to find is that when you sample all Republicans and leaners of all ages, 85% are signing up to go with Trump. And this is only a week after he finished clearing the field and months in advance of the convention when it will almost certainly become official. Keep in mind that 93% of Republicans voted for Romney in 2012 while 6% voted for Barack Obama.

As I’ve discussed here before, it can be easy for some of us to think that the #NeverTrump movement is still roaring if your perception is formed from social media. A large number of the people I follow on Twitter come from the ranks of the writers at National Review, RedState and a few other sites which are firmly entrenched in the camp of stopping Trump no matter the cost. On a daily basis I see repeated mantras which include things such as, “What part of “never” didn’t you understand?

When you’re exposed to that constantly it’s easy to wonder if the entire Republican population isn’t ready to walk off the field and either support or give in to Hillary Clinton. (And whether you’re voting for her, a third party candidate or leaving the POTUS slot on your ballot blank, it’s all the same thing.) But I’ve continued to have a sense that this is a very vocal, highly visible group of authors who are not going to wind up representing the majority of rank and file GOP voters around the nation. In fact, they’ll likely wind up speaking for only a marginal handful of dead-enders by the time we get to November. These early numbers from NBC seem to be showing that the transition is happening even faster than I’d anticipated. If Trump is already getting the backing of 85% of Republicans in early May, he’s got the entire summer and into autumn to round up another eight percent and at least get to parity with Romney. And the more those remaining fifteen percent have to sit and ponder the idea of actually helping elect Hillary Clinton, the easier that task will likely become.

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