By Alexandra Ulmer and Nathan Layne

GEORGETOWN, South Carolina (Reuters) – As donald trump is close to securing a third presidential nomination, anti-Trump Republicans face a sobering reality: Their party is unlikely to ever return to what it was before the MAGA wave hit, and they now have no obvious political home.

For Ken Baeszler, who consistently voted Republican until Trump and his Make America Great Again movement transformed the party, that political scenario is disconcerting.

“The left wing of the Republican Party is waiting for Ronald Reagan to jump out of the grave and save us all,” Baeszler, a 65-year-old retiree, said while attending a rally for Trump’s rival. nikki haley on a recent sunny afternoon in Georgetown, South Carolina.

“It leaves me in a dilemma,” he added of Trump’s likely victory over Haley for the Republican nomination, including an expected victory in the South Carolina primary on Saturday. Baeszler said he could ultimately vote for No Labels, referring to the third party seeking to present another option in November’s presidential election.

Baeszler’s sense of being unmoored was widely echoed in interviews with 15 other Republican or Republican-leaning Haley supporters in South Carolina this week.

Six of those Haley supporters said they would also likely vote for a third-party option if the election is between Trump and Democrat Joe Biden in November. Four said they would support Trump given his conservative values. Four others said they would support Biden because they believed Trump was unfit for office. One said she wasn’t sure.

The snapshot of voters highlights how Trump has alienated part of the Republican Party in a way that could hurt him in his likely rematch against Biden. Haley’s supporters cited a litany of reasons for not wanting to vote for Trump, including his repeated lies about winning the 2020 election against Biden and the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol.

A Suffolk University/USA TODAY poll released this week found that a majority of Haley supporters surveyed, both Republicans and independents, had unfavorable views of Trump, suggesting some would vote for Biden, a third party, or leave. would stay at home, according to David Paleologos. director of the Center for Political Research at Suffolk University.

Nationally, about 18% of respondents to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released in January said they would not vote if Biden and Trump were their choices.

“I’m sick of Trump,” David Cyr, a retired pharmacist, said at Haley’s rally in Georgetown. “I drank that Kool-Aid twice before. Anyone who can’t respect the electoral process and abdicate, you can’t trust them.”

Cyr, 67, said he would probably vote for Biden in November, but cautioned that that doesn’t mean he’s no longer a Republican. “I don’t see it as a betrayal of the Republican Party that they can’t name the right candidate,” he said.

Before Trump’s election in 2016, Republicans were tenacious defenders of free markets, foreign intervention and a smaller state. Trump flipped the script when he came to power by promising to withdraw from foreign entanglements and crack down on immigration at the U.S.-Mexico border. His speeches often focus on his personal grievances, and the former reality TV star frequently uses the teleprompter to make jokes and mock her opponents.

Kirk Randazzo, a political science professor at the University of South Carolina, said the Republican Party had moved away from policies and principles to focus on personality.

“And that personality is Donald Trump,” Randazzo said.

To underscore his control over the party, Trump endorsed his daughter-in-law Lara Trump as co-chair of the Republican National Committee.

MAKING SENSE OF MAGA

While waiting for Haley to take the stage in Georgetown, conservative Jay Doyle, a retired contractor, indulged in what has become something of a national pastime for political junkies: analyzing how the Republican Party came to be so enamored of Trump.

“People who strongly support Trump don’t really understand the facts,” Doyle, 66, said.

Stephen Porter, a former welder sitting nearby, chimed in: “They’re stupid!”

Doyle sheepishly said he didn’t mean that. “I think the term is easy to mislead,” he said.

But Porter, 59, insisted: “Stupid.”

Trump supporters, who often lean toward the working class, have said they feel mocked by elites in both parties and see in Trump someone who has heard their anger, including over immigration. Trump’s critics say he has stoked anger in his base for political gain and to sell products ranging from red MAGA hats to his new $399 sneakers with gold uppers and American flag logos.

The Trump campaign and the RNC did not respond to requests for comment.

To be sure, Trump has also interacted with Americans who previously had little interest in politics. And the Haley events have left Democrats unhappy with Biden, 81, often citing the president’s age as a turnoff.

Several Republican-leaning voters at Haley’s events said they would eventually gravitate toward Trump. Jewelry business owner Mary Davis, 48, would like to see a woman in the White House, but she doesn’t dislike Trump. “She would vote for Trump again,” she Davis said.

Some other attendees, however, were dismayed by the turn their group had taken.

Kim Shattuck, a 65-year-old insurance wholesaler, said she was furious that Trump pressured Republicans in Congress to kill a bipartisan immigration bill this month, believing the move was a ploy by Trump to improve his chances in November.

After voting for Trump twice, she and her husband said they planned to endorse Biden.

(Reporting by Alexandra Ulmer and Nathan Layne; Additional reporting by Liliana Salgado; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Daniel Wallis)

By Sam