In the early days of the 2016 campaign, many pundits seemed certain that Donald Trump couldn't win the Republican nomination, because he was not a real conservative. The Republican base, conventional wisdom had it, would demand a hard-core ideologue—someone who was, in Mitt Romney's tortured phrasing, “severely conservative.” Conservative intellectuals observed darkly that the real estate developer was, in fact, a former Democrat, lacking both principles and a true conservative ideology. But Republican voters either didn't notice or didn't care—or, most likely, both.
Trump instinctively understood this. Instead of studying up to pass conservative litmus tests, Trump talked about “winning” and “losing.” He was a fighter, not an ideologue. If you voted for Trump, you were picking a winner. And weren't you tired of losing?