Despite a key win for Donald Trump in Michigan, the strong showing there by both Ted Cruz and John Kasich illustrates a key challenge for the Republican Party. While Trump won a larger share of votes than any other candidate in Michigan Tuesday, a majority of GOP voters in the state picked someone else, highlighting the strong divisions within the party over the Trump candidacy.
Trump voters show more enthusiasm for their candidate than do those supporting either Cruz or Kasich. About two-thirds of Trump voters in Michigan say they strongly support their candidate.Smaller shares of Cruz voters (43 percent) and Kasich voters (41 percent) say the same — a finding that points to the challenge the GOP has had in rallying around an alternative to Trump.
But should Trump become the eventual party nominee, the NBC News Exit Poll results suggest the schism over his candidacy will remain.Among Cruz voters, 28 percent would be satisfied if Trump were the nominee, while seven in 10 would be dissatisfied. Cruz voters are less polarized over the idea of Marco Rubio as the nominee; 58 percent of Cruz voters say they would be satisfied with the Florida senator as nominee.
Kasich voters in Michigan are similarly polarized over the idea of Trump as the eventual nominee but somewhat less so if either Cruz or Rubio were the eventual choice. Just one in five Kasich voters (20 percent) would be satisfied if Trump was the nominee, and about three-quarters would be dissatisfied. Kasich voters are divided over the idea of Cruz as nominee; 45 percent would be satisfied and 52 percent would be dissatisfied if Cruz became the eventual choice.
But when Kasich voters were asked how they would have voted in the Michigan primary today if their choices had been limited to just two candidates, the findings point to hurdles for both Trump and Cruz. Some 41 percent of Kasich voters in Michigan say they would have voted for Cruz in a two-candidate race, 21 percent say they would have picked Trump and another 20 percent say they would not have voted.