Senator John Thune may be catching some of the retaliation Donald Trump is urging his supporters to wreak on the “self-righteous hypocrites” among GOP leaders (“leadership”, Trump puts in mock quotes) who have called on the Republican nominee to withdraw from the Presidential race.
On his Facebook page Saturday, Thune posted a pleasant video showing him shaking hands at the USD Dakota Days parade (and running to catch up with his parade team, showing me my own NSU Gypsy Days Main Street jog is not unusual for a hard-working candidate). Out of 310 click responses (as of my check at 08:10 CDT), he has so far drawn nine “Angry” faces. The comment section has lit up with Trump flames. Many of those comments come from out of state. They are interspersed with some support for Thune’s repudiation of Trump. Here’s a sampling so far:
Various commenters accuse Thune of being a coward, a “disgrace to liberty,” a “traitor,” a “pansy,” “insane,” a “RINO,” and a “Sunshine Patriot.” Some accuse Thune of taking money from the Clintons, “allowing the left to force us into a couple decades of darkness,”. Some vow to never vote for or donate to Thune again. Very few of the anti-Thune comments revolve around defending Donald Trump as qualified for the Presidency; most of the Thune-hate burbles up from Clinton-hate, plus an appalling dash of anti-Semitism floated by a commenter flying a Confederate traitor flag (yes, Hillary Clinton, you may call that Trumpist “deplorable”).
On the other hand, Thune also gets urgings to run for President (with Condoleezza Rice as VP), thanks for leading and doing the right thing, and a vote of confidence from a guy who met Thune on the way to the john at the State Fair.
And as far as I can see, none of the Trumpist Thune bashers who vow to see Thune removed from office express explicit support for his Democratic challenger, Jay Williams. But the Trumpy-grumps offer an interesting challenge to Williams. Are the out-of-staters swarming Thune’s Facebook page willing to put their money where their mouth is and send Williams money to oust Thune? Are the registered South Dakota voters in the discussion willing to vote for the enemy of their enemy and encourage their friends to do the same?
Recognizing that Trump backers act mostly on emotion, not reason, I would suggest Williams doesn’t have to worry about formulating a strategy to pick up these anti-Thune Trumpists. Williams certainly won’t win over any Trump supporters with his own consistent record of moral outrage over Thune’s earlier endorsement of Trump. Williams’s best path is to press his own critique of Thune, remind voters that Thune only turned against Trump when it was practically too late to do anything about him, and enjoy the natural depression of the Republican vote as casual Republicans stay home and as rabid Trumpists check the Donald but skip the U.S. Senate line.