Stewart’s theory was the opposite: that Trump changed everything and showed what the GOP base was really looking for. Serving as the Trump campaign’s Virginia state chairman last October, he led activists in a march on the RNC headquarters, where he charged that the “establishment pukes” were undermining Trump’s campaign. (He was fired for the stunt.) Last weekend, Stewart told me he had warmed to Reince Priebus, the former RNC chairman now serving as White House chief of staff, but still believed the Republican establishment was hampering Trump’s presidency.
The Stewart supporters I spoke to, at a campaign rally in a diner in Fredericksburg, were galvanized by his nationalist message. There were numerous Confederate flag bumper stickers in the parking lot, and one woman wore a stars-and-bars hat with the word “REBEL.” They told me they were disgusted with Republican leaders like House Speaker Paul Ryan, and put all their faith in Trump.
On Tuesday, there turned out to be a lot more of these types of Republican voters than Ed Gillespie expected.