A recent analysis out of CNN had some surprising news: Former President Donald Trump is way ahead of his nearest rival, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, with Republican voters of color. Harry Enten, one of CNN’s top analysts, did a deep dive into two recent polls of Republican primary voters for the 2024 election. What he discovered was fascinating: While it’s commonly known that former President Trump is ahead of his 2024 primary challengers, his large lead in the primary—to the tune of double digits—stems in large part from the fact that he is winning by a landslide among non-white Republicans. Among white Republican voters, Trump is ahead of DeSantis by only one point—38 percent to 37 percent. Yet among voters of color, Trump dominates Desantis, with 55 percent to DeSantis’s 26 percent.

It’s impossible to overstate the significance of these numbers. First, it means that many people of color that voted Republican in recent general elections are now primary voters, a sign that they are becoming full fledged members of the Republican Party.

Second, it’s significant because voters of color are poised to have a significant impact on determining who the next Republican nominee for president is. Though most Republican voters are still white, voters of color are managing to pull Trump way ahead of DeSantis—at just 18 percent of the GOP.

Trump’s competitors better adjust to this new reality quickly if they have any hope of dethroning the former president.

Black Republicans
COLORADO SPRINGS, CO – OCTOBER 18: Mary Burney of Colorado Springs cheers during a rally for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on October 18, 2016 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The final presidential debate between Trump and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is tomorrow.
Theo Stroomer/Getty Images

While these numbers may be shocking to some, they hew closely to the patterns that developed in the 2016 and 2020 elections. Trump performs better among working class voters of all races generally. That pattern is holding: Among Republicans whose households make less than $50,000 a year, Trump leads DeSantis by 22 points, while losing to DeSantis among voters that make more than $50,000 a year.

This class divide in the GOP has a significant impact on his numbers among Republican voters of color. After all, Republican voters of color are far more likely than white Republicans to make less than $50,000 a year—45 percent, compared to just 28 percent of white Republicans.

Those questioning the significance of Trump’s over-performance among Republican voters of color would do well to recall that Trump has historically performed poorly among white voters with a college degree. A landslide among voters of color would counterbalance this and probably be enough to deliver him the Republican nomination.

As long as Trump is winning GOP voters of color by a landslide, he is virtually unbeatable in the primary. Any competitors wishing to deny him another nomination better start focusing on this growing voting bloc.

Moreover, it would be foolish to think that Trump’s support among Republican voters of color is not based on policy. The Opportunity Zones legislation, authored by South Carolina Senator Tim Scott and signed by President Trump in 2017, drew $29 Billion dollars of investment and development to low income communities. In 2019, he signed bipartisan legislation providing $250 million a year for Historically Black Colleges and Universities. For Black men, Hispanic voters in border states, and Asian Americans, there was a marked policy-based shift that was amplified between 2016 and 2020. Yet few seem interested in replicating that success.

Worse, some of the loudest Trump allies are attempting to run away from core parts of the former President’s legacy, like the First Step Act, which addressed inequities in the criminal justice system and is popular in Black communities across the country yet is now being demagogued as a political weapon by some on the Right.

Some GOP hopefuls are following an old playbook, thinking that their ticket to glory is to ignore voters of color, or, worse, intentionally antagonize them. But those voters now make up nearly 20 percent of the Republican primary base. The old rules won’t work anymore.

Neither will retreating on the working class policies that have transformed the party. Part of Trump’s appeal with voters of color is based on class, and his competitors will have to match, if not outdo, Trump’s appeal to the working class of all races.

Where is his challengers’ version of Trump’s 2020 “Platinum Plan” for Black voters, or his “American Dream Plan” for Hispanic voters?

The candidate that can be competitive among GOP voters of color and working class voters in general while also winning over the still sizable amount of white Republican voters suffering from Trump fatigue will have the best shot at beating Trump in the primary. But candidates that ignore Republican voters of color, or alienate them in a misguided attempt to appeal to other GOP voters, will be relegated to the dustbin of history.

The base of the Republican Party is changing, and the former President will steamroll over his primary opponents if they do not compete for this voting bloc.

Ignore voters of color at your own peril—in both parties.

Darvio Morrow is CEO of the FCB Radio Network and co-host of The Outlaws Radio Show.

The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.