Can the GOP win without Trump's voters?

In short, while the Republican party almost certainly cannot retake the presidency in 2016 with Trump as its nominee, given his high negatives and poor head-to-head poll numbers against Hillary Clinton, it also cannot win without Trump’s supporters. Any tactic that alienates them is a sure loser, no matter how many “emerging constituency” voters the party rallies under its banner. This is not to deny that the GOP should aggressively try to win all demographic groups, but simply to point out that any strategy, such as amnesty, that does so by alienating or discouraging working- and middle-class white voters will lead to certain defeat.

Among all the other candidates, only Ted Cruz — who has gone out of his way to avoid alienating Trump’s supporters, while declining to embrace Trump’s toxic rhetoric — seems to understand this. (It is no coincidence that Cruz has by far the best data operation of any candidate in the race.) Meanwhile, many a Republican Candidate Ahab seems to be haplessly chasing the great Hispanic whale, which, even if miraculously caught, wouldn’t do much to improve the party’s 2016 electoral prospects.

Apart from Trump’s vulgarity, his dissents from GOP policy orthodoxy upset not only K Street lobbyists but also sincere and thoughtful conservative policy analysts and writers. On issues such as eminent domain, trade, and judicial appointments, to name just a few, Trump would certainly be a disaster for conservatives. But his other dissents merit a more serious look: Trump’s reluctance to intervene in foreign civil wars (a reluctance that Cruz shares) has much to recommend it when compared with the overreach of some of the GOP’s nation-building superhawks. And his refusal to frontally assault Medicare and Social Security shows more political sense than does the major-surgery crowd — it is a stance designed to win the “Sam’s Club Republicans” and Reagan Democrats the GOP needs in its camp.

Strong establishments take insurgencies’ best issues and co-opt them. Weak and stupid establishments don’t. Right now, the GOP establishment is weak and stupid.