Republican mainstream is hard at work tearing down Trump. This may or may not work. However, there are two interesting side effects from this that may emerge from this. First, as I have been insistent on in previous posts, the core of Trump’s supporters are not the usual Republicans. If Trump goes down, especially in a rigged process riven with ugliness, there is no reason to believe that they will continue supporting Republicans even at lukewarm rates that they have been. Even re-instating Trump will not suffice to bring these voters back: they were not voting for Trump per se, but the man who challenged the powers that be who ran a rigged set of the institutions that limited their voice. Even if Trump somehow gets recruited to be the face for the powers that be, these voters cannot be satisfied. If Trump is successfully tagged as a liar and hypocrit undeserving of their support, these marginal voters have no reason to vote for any other Republican candidates. What will these voters do, then? Perhaps they will not vote, which is already the case for so many of them anyways, or something else might happen: they might shift to an unexpected outlet–Bernie Sanders.
I have been noting that a large chunk of Sanders voters come from non-Democrats. They formed the margin of his victory in New Hampshire, and possibly, in the caucuses that he carried. Even in states where Sanders lost, he won or at least remained competitive among the independents. If Trump loses some of his independent supporters, Sanders is the natural magnet. Polls of likely Democratic voters miss these voters: if such exodus does take place, its impact will be a Sanders surge that will be declared as totally unexpected, especially if acconpanied by a Trump collapse (although this, in opposite direction, may already have taken place before, in South Carolina and on Super Tuesday, when Trump outperformed his poll numbers and Sanders underperformed.)
The Michigan primary taking place today provides a test of this hypothesis. Which party’s primary will independents flock to? Their choices are obvious, I think: Trump or Sanders. If the former, it is another step towards both the end of the old GOP and the birth of the new, even if the insiders may resist. If the latter, it simultaneously brings nearer the end of GOP as a serious electoral party, period, at least for the foreseeable future, and the end of the Democratic Party as we know it. By smiting Trump, Republican insiders may be cutting off the only group of voters who give them a chance at the White House in the short term, and helping boost prospects of a Democratic coalition that might make their exile more permanent. The first set of evidence, of course, awaits, less than 24 hours away!