Defeating Trump for the Republican Nomination.

            Frank Luntz is an important, sometimes controversial Republican pollster and focus group leader.[1]  Recently, he shared his thoughts on a post-Trump Republican presidential candidate.[2]    

Luntz offers a bald assessment of elements of the American political scene.  On the one hand, “many Trump supporters” are people who were “knocked down, got back up and are now helping others to do the same.”  On the other hand, there is the country’s political elite: “politicians, political hacks, lobbyists, and out-of-touch elites who have ignored, forgotten and betrayed the people they represent.” Trump was originally “elected to destroy” this existing political order.  Now, in the eyes of this large minority of the core Trump constituency, he has become part of the problem. 

            According to Luntz, about a third of Trump voters “prioritize the character of the country and the people who run it.”  Doubtless any Democrat will scoff at this statement.  However, these voters are estranged from Trump himself, but not from his policies. 

            How can Republican rivals win over these voters?  (No Democrat ever will, although a bunch of the Trump base voters are former Democrats.) 

First, the successful contestant will be someone “who champions Mr. Trump’s agenda but with decency, civility, and a commitment to personal responsibility and accountability.”  People reject President Trump’s boorish, bullying behavior even as they continue to support policies like actually confronting China.  During and after his presidency, Trump provided many examples of self-indulgence, irresponsibility, and hypocrisy.  Reminding voters of these faults, while celebrating the many real achievements of his administration[3] can win over voters. 

Second, a candidate should have some kind of track record of actually putting conservative policies into practice.  That argues for a governor, rather than a senator.  Luntz isn’t playing favorites here.  Nikki Haley, Asa Hutchinson, and Ron DeSantis all have this credential. 

Third, be aware that many Trump supporters are older people worried about the future of their children and grandchildren.  Candidates need to talk clearly about solving current problems with grave future implications.  Here, the national debt gets a lot more traction than does climate change. 

Fourth, a candidate will have to win over Republican-leaning independents, not drive them into the Democratic camp. 

Fifth, if candidates are seeking campaign endorsements, those endorsements should come from “the average farmer, small business owner and veteran.”  They most definitely should not come from the “famous and powerful.”  None of the Trump base respects these people.  (The same is probably true of many Democrats.) Nor should they, sad to say. 

[1] On Luntz, see: Frank Luntz – Wikipedia  For televised appearance where you can get a sense of his reasoning, see: Frank I. Luntz | 

[2] Frank Luntz, “How to Make Trump Go Away,” NYT, 10 April 2023. 

[3] Slamming tariffs on China, harassing its major corporations, recognizing that the long campaign to change North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons had failed, insisting upon the importance of mass illegal immigration, treating the NATO allies as the free-riders that they have long been, halting the flood of government by Executive orders, Executive agreements, and bureaucratic rule-writing, and launching “Operation Warp Speed” to rapidly produce Covid vaccines for those who wanted them.  You could watch “Dopesick” for insight into why some did not.