ANALYSIS: Amid Noise, Donald Trump Uniting Republican Party

PHOTO: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gestures during a speech at a rally in Oklahoma City, Feb. 26, 2016. PlaySue Ogrocki/AP Photo
WATCH What Happens After Super Tuesday

The Republican Party isn’t all that divided, actually. After Tuesday night, the GOP looks remarkably united –- behind someone who happens to divide.

If you judge the party by its voters, as opposed to its leaders, the Republican Party belongs to Donald Trump. With at least five wins Tuesday, and running against a still-divided opposition, Trump is taking control the old-fashioned way: by getting more votes than the others.

Republican voters want an outsider who “tells it like it is” and will build a border wall and ban Muslims from entering the country. They may not have known they wanted those things until Trump landed on the scene -– but that’s the point of a candidacy that is shaking a major party’s foundations.

Super Tuesday provided convincing evidence that Trump’s appeal extends across Cracker Barrel territory and well into Whole Foods land, to borrow a phrase used by FiveThirtyEight.com. Two states where Trump romped -– rolling up some of his biggest margins yet -- tell that story.

Massachusetts is a New England state that’s the fifth wealthiest in the nation. Alabama is a Southern state that’s the fifth poorest. On Tuesday, they formed unlikely poles holding up a broadening Trump tent.

Both went for Trump, across income levels and ideological leanings. Voters went Trump for similar reasons -– because they’re “angry” at the federal government, because they want someone who can “bring needed change.”

The night revealed Trump’s soft spots, yet again. He can be beaten among the wealthiest and best-educated voters, and he may yet struggle as the campaign moves to big Midwestern states.

Ted Cruz made a stronger case toward being the Trump alternative by winning Texas and Oklahoma. Marco Rubio notched his first win, in Minnesota, while holding portions of his key voting blocs in states including Virginia.

Trump is likely to face a sustained, well-funded effort to attack him in a negative way. Voting in winner-take-all Florida and Ohio, in two weeks, could prove to be an establishment last stand.

But Trump has already redefined the Republican Party, in his own unique way. If party regulars are angry about that, they have only their own voters to blame.

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