Donald Trump said it best back in 2016: “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose any voters, OK?”
That goes double for bucolic San Luis Obispo County, where local Republican Party leaders are among Trump’s biggest superfans.
Not a damn thing he does will shake their support.
While the county has steadily grown more progressive over the past several years, the GOP has remained staunchly, audaciously, even embarrassingly conservative, so conservative it doesn’t do justice to the word. It enthusiastically endorsed the former president at the beginning of the year, even as most of the state’s other GOP committees remained neutral.
Never mind the impeachments, the lawsuits and the multiple indictments against Trump, the SLO County Republican Party is urging its members to stand with a “true patriot.”
“... Then together we can make America GREAT once again,” it promises on its website.
It also provides an exhaustive list of the former president’s accomplishments, such as:
“Hit record stock market numbers and record 401k’s”
“Colossal rebuilding of the military”
“Unleashed America’s oil and natural gas potential”
“Appointed a historic number of federal judges who will interpret the Constitution as written”
“Acted early to combat the China Virus in the United States” (Yes, it really says “China Virus” — in multiple places.)
Surprising no one, there is not a single mention of the Jan. 6 insurrection.
What are other county GOP committees doing?
So far, it appears that only one other county GOP organization has endorsed Trump: Placer County, though without any of the fervor of the SLO County leadership.
The remaining 56 counties have yet to make any endorsements in the March 5 primary or are endorsing only local candidates, according to their websites and Facebook accounts.
The Orange County Republican Party, one of the strongest in the state, is among those that endorse only local candidates in the primary.
“The Republican Party is blessed with a strong field of presidential contenders in 2024,” it says on its website. “The Republican Party of Orange County does not endorse in presidential primary races. We do not decide our party’s nominee. You do.”
That echoes a statement the state Republican Party made in 2022.
“The California Republican Party does not endorse in presidential primaries and will stay neutral,” party spokesperson Ellie Hockenbury said in a statement reported by the San Francisco Chronicle. “We would be lucky to have any of the outstanding Republican leaders who may decide to run.”
Trump is far, far ahead in California
Despite such shows of neutrality, the reality is that no other Republican candidate has a chance of winning in California.
Just look at the polls: As of Nov. 17, they had Trump at 59.6%, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis at 11.4% and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley at 8.7%, according to an average compiled by ABC News.
That is great news for Trump. Due to a recent rules change, a candidate who earns more than 50% of the GOP primary vote will pick up all of California’s 169 delegates. (They used to be divvied up by congressional district.)
If his numbers hold, Trump will do exactly that.
‘Republicans continue to love him. It’s not debatable.’
The former president’s continued popularity, even in a liberal state like California, is bewildering to many voters who would prefer just about any candidate to someone as vindictive, unhinged and dangerous as Donald Trump.
Yet Trump remains The One.
That’s the case even in a laid-back, coastal county like San Luis Obispo, where Democrats now lead in voter registration and managed last year to flip the majority on the county Board of Supervisors from conservative to liberal.
Nevertheless, the Republican Party remains strong in pockets of the county, and has actively resisted a liberal takeover. Like many GOP committees across the nation, they’ve been in Trump’s camp from the jump.
Other candidates never stood a chance.
“(T)he problem facing either DeSantis or any of the others is not that the right Trump alternative hasn’t emerged but that most Republicans don’t want a Trump alternative. They want Trump,” David A. Graham writes in The Atlantic.
“The depth of affection is appalling, given that his first term in office was morally and practically disastrous and ended with an attempt to steal the election and an exhortation to sack the U.S. Capitol. But Republicans continue to love him; it’s not debatable.”
No, it is not.
Barring unforeseen circumstances, that means another match-up between Donald Trump and President Joe Biden is all but guaranteed — and this time Team Trump could ultimately come out on top.
That’s a frightening thought with the future of American democracy hanging in the balance, but this is no time to despair.
We have a year to prevent that from happening, and we had better get to it because it will not be easy, not when millions of voters view the former president as some kind of modern-day messiah they will follow no matter what.
Remember what Donald Trump said about shooting someone on Fifth Avenue?
For once, he wasn’t lying.