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Why Trump Holds a Grip on the G.O.P.

The lesson Republicans take from this is that Mr. Trump has discovered a potentially winning formula — if that formula’s power to attract voters to the Republican brand can be separated from the formula’s propensity to repel even larger numbers of voters who turn out to elect Democrats.

Opinion Debate What should the Biden administration prioritize?

  • The Editorial Board argues that as the “pandemic will not be vanquished anywhere until it is vanquished everywhere,” the president should engage in a robust “vaccine diplomacy” in addition to domestic efforts.
  • Nicholas Kristof writes with lenient treatment of Mohammed bin Salman and Saudi Arabia, the president risks sending a “weak message to other thuggish dictators” who might consider abuses like the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.
  • William Ruger writes that “completely withdrawing our troops” from Afghanistan “is sound policy” and that Biden should stick to a withdrawal timeline that Trump negotiated.
  • Gail Collins, Opinion columnist, writes that while one can appreciate that Joe Biden is busy, there’s “absolutely no reason we shouldn’t start to nag” on new gun control measures.

The non-Trump 2024 Republican hopefuls have different strategies for getting the benefit of the Trump brand without suffering from its drawbacks. Governor DeSantis presents himself as a stalwart of Mr. Trump’s populist themes — including, in his CPAC speech, criticisms of “military adventurism,” “open borders” and Big Tech — and, like Mr. Trump, adopts a defiant attitude toward his critics and disparages “the failed Republican establishment of yesteryear.” But he does so with more polish as a politician than Mr. Trump did and with a record of experience that Mr. Trump lacked in 2016.

Ambassador Haley, on the other hand, has so far sought to cultivate a niche as a candidate friendly enough to Mr. Trump to be acceptable to his supporters yet softer in tone and closer to the traditional Republican establishment view of foreign policy. Her calculation seems to be that Trump voters are needed to win the 2024 nomination and general election but that an ideological and rhetorical makeover is needed to overcome the resistance that Mr. Trump’s politics generates.

Still, most Republicans appear more confident in an aggressive stance, under the assumption that without the unusual conditions of the 2020 election, the 2024 contest will look more like 2016’s.

Mr. Trump might see things that way himself, and given the element of personal rivalry that has characterized his attitude toward figures like George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, seeking a rematch with President Biden in 2024 would be very much in character. Mr. Trump has made more than one comeback before, with business bankruptcies posing no barrier to later successes in television and electoral politics.

Other Republicans who have molded or remolded themselves in Mr. Trump’s image are more polished than their prototype, but voters may or may not want such political professionalism. The Republican Party is not yet entirely a working-class party, but it is increasingly a party that draws support from less-educated voters. This was true even before Mr. Trump’s arrival on the scene, and these voters have been all the more attracted to the party thanks to him.

The education divide between the parties is not necessarily an intellectual divide as much as a cultural one: America’s institutions of higher education generally inculcate both a faith in credentialed expertise and a broadly liberal or progressive worldview that Mr. Trump defies. A cultural rejection of the college-educated classes’ consensus helps to explain the Republican appeal to less-educated voters. But as such Ivy League-credentialed figures as Governor DeSantis, Senators Cruz and Hawley and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo demonstrate, it is a rejection that some of the best-educated people in the country also share.

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