Let's begin with an acknowledgement: The Republican Party and conservative movement are in a state of existential upheaval. Regardless of what happens on Tuesday, the rise of Trumpism on the Right cannot be written off as a blip on the radar that will fade into oblivion once the 2016 election cycle ends, at long last. If Trump loses, or if he wins, there are enormous looming battles ahead -- on policy, on tone, on priorities, on demography, and over the proper reading of recent history. It probably won't be pretty or tidy. But in the here and now, with an important election arriving within 48 hours, I'd like to make three points about turnout and stakes: (1) Yes, there is (sometimes contradictory) evidence pointing to deep rifts within the GOP. Some polls show that a clear majority of GOP voters trust Donald Trump as the leader of the party, as opposed to House Speaker Paul Ryan. Trump won the most primary votes ever by a Republican candidate for president. Then again, a mere plurality of Republican voters backed Trump during the nominating process, during which he also racked up the most votes against him in history -- attracting a mere plurality of the GOP electorate, and securing the weakest percentage of any Republican nominee in the modern era. Then there are data points like this:
interesting nugget from last NYT/CBS poll: pic.twitter.com/EnEX00i9XK— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) November 6, 2016
The tightening of the national race has been attributable to a number of factors, including Mrs. Clinton's latest legal troubles, as well as the overwhelming majority of Republican-leaning voters "coming home" to support the ticket. The IBD/TIPP survey frequently touted by Trump supporters shows both major nominees drawing 90 percent of their party's base, roughly in line with the 2012 results. To the extent that 'Never Trump' exists (disclosure: I've made my position clear on that front), that movement is quite small; it does not represent an unusual percentage of defectors or holdouts. So despite the self-recognized divisions measured in the NYT/CBS poll, Republican voters appear to have rallied around the team flag in the name of defeating Hillary Clinton.
(2) Election day turnout matters immensely. Look no further than Nevada, where it appears as though Democrats have built an imposing early vote firewall that may only get breached by an extraordinary Republican showing on Tuesday. Meanwhile, some data gurus believe that surging Latino participation in early voting is a secret weapon for the Clinton campaign that may be underreported in public polling. And look at these internals from the final CBS/YouGov state-level polls in a pair of must-haves for Donald Trump:
Hillary is up double digits among the millions who have already voted in both Florida and Ohio? Game over, right? Not so fast. The same numbers show that those who plan to cast ballots on Tuesday lean heavily in Trump's favor. The result: A one-point overall race in Ohio, and an exact tie in Florida (where GOP Senate candidates lead comfortably and modestly, respectively). Data out of the Sunshine State may point to an even closer early voting margin there. Either way, the composition of the Tuesday electorate -- who actually shows up -- will determine who wins races up and down the ballot.
(3) Finally, a word about center-right voters putting differences aside to vote for down-ballot Republican, even if there are major fissures over the man at the top of the ticket (which, as we've already noted, have been mostly muted for the time being). There are big policy implications and political outcomes on the line. To Trump-skeptical or Trump-hostile conservatives: One of the attacks hurled your way for months has been that you secretly or practically support Hillary Clinton. Helping to ensure the defeat of her political party in Senate, House, and local races presents an important opportunity to deal meaningful blows against the Left's agenda. Hillary Clinton Democrats will try to raise taxes, expand Obamacare, and further limit the first and second amendments, if given the chance. We all saw what happened in 2009 and 2010 when their party was handed control of all three elected elements of the federal government. The country (literally) cannot afford a repeat performance.
To Trump loyalists dissatisfied with the GOP's level of support for your guy: The incentive to turn out to vote for Trump is self-evident. But down ticket races matter, too, even if you're not in love with those Republicans. If you want even a fraction of Trump's agenda to have a prayer of being implemented if he's elected, he'll need Republican majorities to achieve his goals. Do you expect Democrats to fund the wall? Do you expect Democrats to repeal Obamacare? Do you expect Democrats to confirm strong originalist judges? No, they will oppose him at virtually every turn. And if you believe all the things you say about 'Crooked Hillary' and her designs for America, there is no excuse for not voting to elect Congressional Republicans. If she wins on Tuesday, there is only one political party that will lift a finger to oppose her in Washington. You may find yourselves underwhelmed by the ferocity and tactics of that opposition at times, but Democratic majorities are a guaranteed rubber stamp. Zero accountability. No check on her power. All things considered, for center-right voters of all stripes who detest Hillary Clinton and oppose her ideas, the choice is clear and unambiguous. And sitting at home is not a responsible action.