• Former President Donald Trump romped in virtually every GOP primary contest this year.

  • But below the surface, his numbers in some key exurban areas could give him headaches in the fall.

  • While exurbs generally lean toward the GOP, a sizable number of ex-Haley voters could go for Biden.

Throughout his time in the White House, Donald Trump presided over the GOP’s collapse in suburban communities across the United States, especially in affluent areas filled with college-educated voters.

In the 2016 presidential election, Trump lost traditional GOP strongholds like Orange County, California, and Cobb County, Georgia, a preview of Democratic gains in the 2018 midterms and the 2020 elections.

And this year, Trump underperformed in many inner-ring suburban counties compared to his statewide vote totals. This pattern emerged even as Trump was already heavily favored to secure the GOP presidential nomination.

And Trump now has another electoral math issue he’ll have to tackle: his underperformance in key exurban counties.

Politico examined 1,000 counties that voted in the Republican presidential primaries this year, revealing the extent voters preferred another GOP standard-bearer.

Unlike most inner-ring counties across the county, many exurban counties still tilt toward the Republican Party and often elect GOP lawmakers at the local and congressional levels. And unlike their more urban counterparts, exurban counties generally boast a less-concentrated number of voters with college degrees, a demographic that favors Democrats. So many exurban residents often want to back Republican candidates but simply don’t care for Trump.

“You hear a lot of moderate Republicans now who say that they’ll never vote for Trump again,” Parker Fairbairn, the Republican Party chairman in Emmet County, Michigan, told Politico.

In the 2016 general election, Trump won Emmet County — in the northern reaches of the Lower Peninsula — by 19 points. Four years later, he won the county by 11 points.

In the 2024 Michigan GOP primary, Trump won Emmet by 34 points, but the figure was below his nearly 42-point statewide victory.

Despite her statewide loss, former UN ambassador Nikki Haley — Trump’s chief primary opponent until she exited the race earlier this month — still won 30 percent of the vote in Emmet.

A similar scenario unfolded in the North Carolina primary, where Trump won statewide by nearly 51 points. But in the GOP-leaning Charlotte exurbs of Cabarrus and Union counties, Haley picked up roughly a quarter of the vote in each locality.

Will some of these voters eventually support President Joe Biden in the fall?

Republicans are banking that many voters will eventually revert to their old ways and pull the lever for Trump over economic concerns. Biden has struggled to convey his economic wins in a way that has resonated with voters.

But some Haley supporters are going all-out in their quest to reelect Biden, as they seek to reel in voters who remain leery of Trump.

Robert Schwartz, the senior advisor for Haley Voters for Biden, a one-time pro-Haley super PAC, is one of those backers.

“There’s still a lot of raw feelings about how Nikki Haley and her family were treated, and about the way that MAGA and Donald Trump are treating Nikki Haley supporters and the whole ‘permanently barred from MAGA,'” he told Politico. “We want to lock in that feeling of resentment and disgust toward the way Trump treated them.”

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