The only (although not necessarily too implausible) reason that Trump would crater in November will be because of Republican defections. If so, who are most likely to bolt? The problem that many Republicans have with Trump is that he is not really a “conservative.” If he is the nominee, however, he will be the Repulican. It follows that while “Republicans” will probably stay, “Conservatives” probably will not.
This will certainly cause even more confusion: many people equate “Republican”and ” conservative,” as they also do “Democrat” and “liberal.”. Yet, these convergences are fairly recent developments. Ideology and policy positions, compared to history, social relationships, and other forms of cultural ties traditionally mattered much more in defining partisanship–liberal Republicans and conservative Democrats were no less “partisan” than their more ” ideological” co-partisans.
The convergence came about because it became easier to sell a party on the basis of its policy and ideology based reputation: in a sense, “symbolic” politics of a slightly different sort. Democrats gotta do the Democratic thing, and Democratic things are liberal. Naturally, this drew in the liberals into the Democratic Party without having to build the long term sociocultural relationship as per years past.
But something funny happened as parties gave in to symbolic politics: the conservatives, who were not necessarily “Republicans,” decided that they should own the Republican Party and hijack its machinery to advance a “conservative” agenda. (somewhat similar developments took place in the Democratic Party, first with the liberals asserting themselves in 1970s and 1980s, then the centrists taking over in 1990s, but Democrats were more “conservative”–as in resistant to change–due to the complexity of their coalition compared to the Republicans’). The latest incarnation of this conservative hostile takeover attempt of the Republican Party has taken the form of Cruz candidacy.
In other words, Cruz supporters are not real Republicans. They are conservatives who would support the Republicans only as long as they are conservative. If Republicans are no longer conservative, as will be the case with Trump candidacy, they have little reason to stick around.
This may lead to even stranger coalitions: will Clinton be supported by a mixture of liberals (via the Democratic Party) and extreme conservatives who previously backed Cruz? Perhaps. One might be tempted, were that to materialize, to say that Trump ran to the left of Clinton and that former Cruz backers simply chose the true conservative–Hillary Clinton. Actually, there is certain amount of truth to that characterization, but in highly mind screwy fashion. These are truly interesting times! (Not necessarily in a bad way.)