This poll perfectly captures the Republican Party’s Trump problem

More than 40% of GOP or GOP-leaning voters said they are a supporter of Donald Trump more than the party itself.

US President Donald Trump gives a thumbs-up as he walks from Marine One upon arrival on the South La...
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It’s never been all that hard to characterize former President Donald Trump as sitting at the top of a vast conservative cult of personality — one that’s traded right-wing policy goals and even party affiliation for the more nebulous satisfaction of fascistic, strong-man beatification. But what does that actually mean, in terms of cold, hard data? Look no further than a new poll that shows the degree to which Trump has supplanted the GOP itself as the focal point for nearly half of all Republicans.

According to an NBC News poll released Sunday, barely half of Republican and lean-Republican voters support the actual Republican Party over Trump individually, down from 58% this spring to a sparse 50% today. Conversely, 41% of respondents said they supported Trump himself over the GOP — up seven points from this spring — while an anemic 4% responded “both.”

These are not, it should be noted, the highest numbers Trump has enjoyed in this particular poll — his support over the Republican Party topped off at 54% in the waning months of his presidency. However this is the highest his support over the GOP has been all year long, placing him back in a range last seen during the time he actually occupied an elected office. What’s more, this comes as Trump is widely seen as ramping up to declare his candidacy for the 2024 presidential election, even as his hand-picked candidates for Senate are struggling.

Still, given the ongoing purge of non-Trump-addled Republicans, Trump’s seemingly reinvigorated support over the GOP is perhaps not altogether surprising — particularly as he actively works to whip conservatives into a protective frenzy over the FBI’s search for possibly stolen national security documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate. This dynamic of Trump supplanting the GOP opens one of the biggest unanswered (and perhaps unanswerable) questions of the conservative movement going forward: Can a Republican Party so wholly in the thrall of a single man — one whose mercurial whims and fundamental self-interest are largely at odds with any sort of actual institutional stability — exist apart from the person who serves as its central animating force?

Ultimately, this is the battle playing out across the right-wing landscape. And even if the GOP can outlast Trump, will that simply mean the party will reset itself to its factory settings from a few years ago, which allowed and encouraged the rise of Trump in the first place?