Four years ago, the media enjoyed covering the phenomenon of so-called Never Trumpers; Republicans who wouldn’t vote for Donald Trump.
There was speculation that these voters, many well connected to the Washington establishment, would put the icing on the electoral cake for Hillary Clinton. Of course, this notion proved fanciful. The Never Trumpers are back in 2020. They’re no greater in number, but the media has gobbled it up again.
But there’s another group of Republicans: those who enthusiastically supported GOP candidates other than Donald Trump before he was nominated. They remained cautious about Trump even after the Republican National Convention. Ultimately, though, they pulled the lever for Trump over Hillary. Call them “Reluctant Trumpers.”
They’re still around, too. But’s there’s a difference: they are now enthusiastic Trumpers. I know. I’m one of them.
Four years ago, I was national co-chair of Carly Fiorina’s fledgling campaign. She and I had served on the board of the American Conservative Union together, and I wanted a conservative candidate. Having supported conservatives since my days on Ronald Reagan’s campaign staff, I wasn’t yet convinced of the bona fides of former Democrat Donald Trump.
The other chairman of Carly’s campaign was Joe Schmuckler, a highly successful businessman. Schmuckler served as John McCain’s campaign treasurer in 2008. For some obvious reasons, he was something less than full-throated in support of Trump in 2016.
When I met up with Joe this year, however, I was interested to find that, like me, he’s “all in” for Donald Trump. No longer reluctant in his support, Joe Schmuckler is suggestive of two things: the significant number of Republicans whose support for Trump has moved from tepid to enthusiastic and a growing wave of intensity in overall support for Trump.
“I missed it,” Schmuckler told me, referring to 2016. “It wasn’t until after he was president that I fully understood the power of Donald Trump’s message.” He could have said WE missed it.
Schmuckler is far from alone. His simple explanation – that watching Trump truly put America First convinced him that Trump was action more than talk – is something I’ve heard repeatedly from former Reluctant Trumpers.
Andy Warren is a former county commissioner of Bucks County, Pennsylvania, one of the collar counties wrapped around Philadelphia. With more than 625,000 residents, it’s larger than Wyoming or Vermont. It’s the ultimate purple area with a diverse population. Warren knows it well. He was county commissioner there for 16 years.
In those days, he was a moderate Republican. When 2016 rolled around, Trump was No. 17 of the 17 major Republican presidential candidates on Warren’s dance card. Not this year. “I’m 1,000% in support of Donald Trump,” Warren told me recently. “Even when I was running myself, I didn’t feel as strongly as I feel about this election.”
Warren believes that Trump will be regarded as a great president, not merely a good one. He also sees Joe Biden’s aggressive move leftward as genuinely frightening. “I fear as I’ve rarely feared anything what a Biden win would do to America.”
Warren is unbridled in his support for Trump this time around for “myriad reasons.” Among them is Trump’s success in keeping the United States out of war and the booming economy that his policies stimulated.
“In 2016, Donald Trump was still an idea,” says Adam Goodman, Edward R. Murrow Fellow at Tufts University and veteran Republican media maker. “In 2020, he has a four-year record of challenging the establishment – with great success.”
Goodman, like my other friends, is now unabashedly supporting Trump. While I was cutting my teeth with Ronald Reagan, Adam and his father, the legendary political consultant Bob Goodman, were turning out the iconic ads for George H. W. Bush that made him a national presidential contender. Adam supported Bush’s son, Jeb, in 2016.
For Goodman, Trump’s willingness to challenge China is a huge factor in his support for the president. “He’s the first president to really call China on the carpet,” said Goodman. Likewise on immigration. “We’re now having a real conversation about citizenship. Trump has highlighted the fact that we either have real borders or we don’t.”
My friends and I aren’t alone. Social media has been abuzz with similar sentiments since David Sound published an article in The Federalist acknowledging that he didn’t vote for Trump four years ago but would “crawl over broken glass to vote for him now.”
As for the enlightened who saw the way four years ago, their enthusiasm remains unquenched. The rallies, caravans, flotillas, and every imaginable demonstration of intense support tell the story better than any words. Trump’s support has an intensity that the Biden campaign only dreams of replicating.