A sampling of voters from three key primary states showed that former President Donald Trump retains his populist grip on the Republican Party faithful, but that mounting indictments – which they feel are mostly unwarranted – have them considering other candidates as alternatives.
On “The Story” Monday, anchor Martha MacCallum spoke with voters from Ohio, South Carolina and Pennsylvania. Trump won both Ohio and South Carolina twice; he won Pennsylvania in 2016 but lost in 2020.
Deb Ludwig, a voter from Ohio, said she will likely support Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis or consider fellow Buckeye State native Vivek Ramaswamy.
“I don’t think in the primary, I don’t believe I will end up voting for Donald Trump. I am really sad that we’re doing this to him,” Ludwig said.
“I think that his actions were good as president, but there’s so much division and hatred towards him in the country. I don’t think it’s healthy for us to have him as a candidate. However, if he’s running against Biden, there’s no doubt that I’m going to end up supporting him.”
Ludwig suggested some of the allegations against Trump depict prosecutors that aren’t interested in true due process, adding that she has heard talk about “banana republics” and “kangaroo courts” when it comes to those who criticize what is happening to the current GOP front-runner.
“They don’t really care if they have the right facts, they just want to destroy him. And I don’t understand it,” she said.
She said DeSantis has similar “moxie that Trump has” and that his actions in Florida shows he is not afraid to take big issues or opponents head-on – adding she also like Ramaswamy.
Rick Slagle, a South Carolina voter, eschewed talk of the two candidates from his state – Sen. Tim Scott and ex-Gov. Nikki Haley – instead stating he wants to see Trump as the party’s nominee.
“I think that if you go down the list and there is a long list of things that he has been accused of over the last 4 to 5 or 6 years. And now we’re finding out that in many cases, those were not true,” he said.
“And so what the hardest part is, what is the truth and trying to land on? Is this truth or is it not truth? Is it [the indictment] just a political stunt or not a political stunt? And I think by and large, most supporters believe that it’s just another political stunt.”
B.J. Werzyn of Pennsylvania added that Trump’s ability to, while weathering compounding indictments, retain hold of his right-wing base, is foreshadowing the likelihood he becomes the Republican Party’s nominee.
He noted there is still eight months before the Keystone State’s primary – one of the latest chronologically on the seasonal calendar. Trump is likely to be the top of the ticket no matter who he would want to vote for, Werzyn argued.
Pennsylvania’s primary contests are often overshadowed by the state’s importance on general election night, as the primaries are almost always whittled down to a prospective nominee by the time its late-Spring date rolls around.
In 2016, Trump still had five other opponents on the ballot, and Hillary Clinton was still battling Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. — but that year was a rarity among others where the party pick was already a fait accompli.
The Commonwealth however will host a handful of important races in 2024 once again, with Democratic Sen. Bob Casey Jr. — scion of a major Democratic Party family in the state –up for reelection, along with the newly-Democrat-majority State House’s one-seat grip on power in Harrisburg following sweeping redistricting measures in 2022.
One other key primary race that materialized within the last week in that state was in Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick’s, R-Pa., Bucks County district.
The moderate Republican in a Philadelphia-suburb swing seat now faces Mark Houck – the pro-life activist who made headlines after being subjected to an FBI raid in 2022 – linked to allegations from the Biden administration he violated a law governing freedom of access to abortion clinics.
In Ludwig’s state, Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, is considered a vulnerable incumbent, as Republicans seek to win back the Senate majority.
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