In a nutshell, this is why Trump lost the 2020 election:
“In light of all this, it’s hardly surprising that the populist-nationalist wing of the Republican Party has picked Teddy Roosevelt to be their mascot. If you were to line Republican presidents up on an ideological spectrum, Roosevelt would sit at the opposite pole to limited-government icons such as Calvin Coolidge and Ronald Reagan. For conservatives who want to pivot away from the libertarian-inflected fusionism that has dominated the GOP since 1964, TR’s presidency will always be a touchstone. …
What he did with this power didn’t really matter as much — note that he could hardly have been more of a “dead consensus,” “zombie Reaganite” president in policy terms if he had tried. …
Once the populists have chosen their champion for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination, they will accept no one else. Populists, whose allegiance to institutions is nonexistent, turn out only for their chosen one. For evidence, look no further than the Georgia Senate runoffs: Traditional suburban Republicans came out in force for Loeffler and Perdue, and a critical mass of Trump devotees stayed home. …”
“There was a time when CPAC was generally regarded in elite conservative and Republican circles as merely a circus, a Star Trek convention, a freak show, even. The undercurrent of these comments and discussions was that while CPAC might be a cross-section of the weird edges of the conservative activist set it didn’t truly represent the seriousness and sobriety of the broader movement.
And so establishment RINOs like me would go for the spectacle and to network with conservative influencers who had travelled to DC for the event. Staffers from Conservatism Inc. would trudge down to the Marriott to hawk their wares and promote their email lists. The mainstream media would flock to the nuttiest looking guy in a tri-corner hat and take the ample opportunities that the speakers provided to make conservatives look crazy. …”
In the 2020 election, Donald Trump lost two types of White voters on opposite ends of his coalition, but he lost them for very different reasons.
There were traditional Republican voters who are college educated Whites who live in the affluent metropolitan suburbs who voted for Joe Biden and Republican candidates down-ballot all over the country because they come from the True Cons wing and wanted to get rid of Trump. After he won the 2016 election, Trump formed an alliance with Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell and catered to them for four years on policy and gave them pretty much everything they wanted from tax cuts to deregulation to libertarian judges and they still voted for Joe Biden because they wanted to return to the pre-2016 era.
There were disaffected Independent voters who are both college educated and White working class voters who live in rural areas and less affluent suburbs who strongly backed Donald Trump in 2016 (these were Alt-Right and Alt-Lite voters), but who didn’t show up at the polls in 2018 or 2020 because they were disappointed with Trump because he catered to the True Cons wing on policy and completely staffed his administration with those people and didn’t govern nationalist enough or populist enough for their tastes. He had become Blumpf as president. These people were not satisfied with “owning the libs” and Trump’s cult of personality and only cared about meaningful changes in policy.
If Trump had won White Indies in the 2020 election, he would still be president. He won Independent voters in all the swing states in 2016. He lost them in all the swing states in 2020. These people are not True Conservatives and dislike people like Jeb Bush and the sort of people who were behind the Lincoln Project. They are populist voters with different views on economics.
People like Charlie Sykes, Bill Kristol, Mickey Edwards, Joe Walsh and Mitch McConnell are a massive albatross for the GOP because their views are wildly out of sync both with the Republican mainstream and the Center of the electorate. Rightwing PMCs who only care about tax cuts, endless wars, political correctness and virtue signaling repulse far more people than they attract.
A smarter pol like Josh Hawley who embraces economic populism in substance, not merely rhetoric could win over both the “white supremacists” and blacks and Hispanics. This is because working class voters of all races tend of have a sharper sense of racial and ethnic identity. All the people in the middle are much more disaffected and more ethnocentric but tend to have more similar views on economics.