Yes they will! And if half (or even a third) of people who identify as Republicans right now left the party if there were a concerted effort on behalf of the establishment — such as it is — to rid the party of Trump, then the GOP would have approximately a 0.0% chance of winning a national election.
Which Trump knows. And Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell knows. And House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy knows.
(Worth noting: Republicans lost control of the White House, the Senate and the House during Trump’s time in office.)
All of which creates a simple dynamic: Trump has the Republican Party right where he wants it — using his cult following among a large-ish segment of the Republican base to hold the party hostage.
What’s all the more remarkable about the barrel that Trump has the Republican Party over is that the establishment has no one to blame for it but themselves.
When Trump initially began to show movement in the 2016 GOP primary polls, the general view among Republican establishment types was that he would flame out. When he won the GOP nomination, they said that either he wouldn’t win or if he did he would moderate his behavior to be more presidential. When he won the White House, they said they could use him to get conservative priorities through because he didn’t care about policy.
While these establishment types were busy rationalizing how they could support Trump — a man whose commitment to the Republican Party is, um, loose at best — the backers of the billionaire businessman were pouring out of the Trojan horse that had been dragged into the GOP camp.
And by the time these “leaders” realized what was happening, it was too late. Trump was not only fully in charge of the GOP base but was also purging voices within the party that disagreed with him — tightening his grip all the while.
Which brings us back to Graham’s assessment of what the GOP would look like without Trump. It wouldn’t look like much — and certainly wouldn’t be a competitive national party.
The Point: Republicans made their bed over the last five years. Now they have to lie in it. And it’s not a comfortable place to be.