Donald Trump’s candidacy for president has, by nearly all accounts, brought new voters to Republican primaries, often in record numbers state after state. But now, many longtime Republican officials and pundits who previously cried out for a bigger GOP tent are saying, “Wait – we were just kidding. We like our little club just the way it is.”
Notable conservative “leaders” including George Will, Charles Krauthammer, Erick Erickson, Rich Lowry, Glenn Beck, Karl Rove and many others who are aghast at Trump’s appeal to GOP voters are on a mission to keep conservatism “pure.” This effort makes it even more ironic for Trump to be the one compared to Hitler.
So devoted are they to their kamikaze mission to keep the conservative bloodlines uncontaminated that they are considering supporting a third-party “conservative” candidate if Trump wins the Republican nomination. Such a development would guarantee Hillary Clinton’s election, but they do not care.
Their first desire is to choose a different Republican nominee than Trump, but failing that they are increasingly suggesting that will they launch a third party bid. The moxie and ego required to collude to disregard the delegate leader come convention time and create enough chaos to anoint their chosen nominee is truly remarkable.
The only thing that keeps the whole conspiracy from moving from the category of “amusing” to “alarming” is that it is a movement doomed to fail. When Trump predicts riots if that happens, he is not encouraging riots as much as he is stating a fact. (Trump is hardly the first politician to predict convention riots, but anything Trump says is elevated by the media and his opponents into alarming threats of violence.)
To the anti-Trump movement within the GOP, democracy is fine as long as it doesn’t get out of control. When voters veer from the plan, well, it’s time to take corrective action. For all his bombast and hyperbole, Trump has played by the rules established by the Republican National Committee, and he has so far won fairly and squarely.
Trump has submitted his name for nomination in primary and caucus after primary and caucus, and he has won 20 out of 32 among the states and territories that have held them so far. In a distant second place is Ted Cruz with eight wins, followed by Marco Rubio with three and John Kasich with one. Heading into Tuesday’s contests in Arizona, Utah and American Samoa, Trump has amassed 696 delegates to 424 for Cruz, 167 for Rubio and 144 for Kasich.
But 60 percent of Republican voters have voted for someone other than Trump, scream his adversaries. Yes, and 75 percent have voted for someone other than Cruz, and 85 percent have voted for someone other than Kasich. In multi-candidate races, majorities are seldom enjoyed until near the end of the process when a two-person race finally emerges. Until then, pluralities win, and everyone recognizes as much. Except this year.
Only Trump has a realistic – even probable – chance to reach the 1,237 delegates needed to clinch the nomination, and in any other year with any other candidate, the RNC would already have pronounced a candidate with such an overwhelming string of victories the presumptive nominee, and urged everyone else to drop out. But Trump is not part of the GOP’s good-old-boy network.
Oh how the RNC must secretly wish that it employed the “super delegate” system used by the Democratic Party, which assigns delegate status to hundreds of party officials and virtually guarantees a win this year for Hillary over Bernie Sanders. If the GOP had a similar system, the establishment could hand-pick its nominee and quit worrying about those pesky voters.
Aside from his suspicious credentials as a “real conservative,” part of what seems to bother the establishment types – and simultaneously accounts for Trump’s appeal to voters – is Trump’s bluntness. He is simply not as refined as many of those in his party who are working for his demise.
For example, Trump refers to Cruz as “Lyin’ Ted.” Now if George Will, for instance (and most writers, including yours truly), were to call someone a liar, he would write it roughly as follows: “When it comes to his association with the truth, he has a tenuous relationship at best.”
The professional pundit method of calling someone a liar, or unattractive, or unintelligent is polite, politically correct and even open to interpretation. Donald Trump’s way of saying the same things are more direct and impossible to misinterpret, which is what many voters like, and what establishment GOP pundits, officeholders, party leaders and the media elite hate.
Ted Cruz has a mathematically possible, but improbable, path to winning outright the delegates needed for nomination. John Kasich has no path, even if he won every remaining delegate.
Kasich – whose 2016 Mr. Nice Guy persona is jarring and a little annoying to Ohioans who have followed him over the years, but which is so far working for him on the national stage (if winning one state can be called “working,” which is a generous definition being afforded to losing candidates this year) – is hanging in there hoping to be the consensus pick at a chaos convention.
Kasich’s claim that polls show him beating Hillary and Trump unable to do so is to buy into the mistaken notion that polls in March mean anything come November. Barring an upset victory somewhere besides his home state, Kasich will rightfully be pressured to drop out so Cruz can take on Trump one on one.
Trump, meanwhile, is the only candidate who is actually expanding the GOP tent, after years of a bigger tent being nothing more than wishful thinking. He has a chance to win states in November that no other Republican could hope to win.
Unfortunately, the tentmakers have decided they really didn’t want to expand after all, and they’re working furiously to zip up the flaps before the convention rolls around and the outsiders start crowding their way inside.
Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or on Twitter @abernathygary.