Republicans Resigning Themselves To Trump Being Their Nominee
For better or worse, Republicans seem to be resigning themselves to the inevitable.
With six weeks left in the primary process and Donald Trump inching closer to clinching a first ballot win in Cleveland, The Washington Post reports that Republican insiders are starting to resign themselves to the inevitability of Donald Trump:
Throughout the Republican Party, from New Hampshire to Florida to California, many leaders, operatives, donors and activists arrived this week at the conclusion they had been hoping to thwart or at least delay: Donald Trump will be their presidential nominee.
An aura of inevitability is now forming around the controversial mogul. Trump smothered his opponents in six straight primaries in the Northeast and vacuumed up more delegates than even the most generous predictions foresaw. He is gaining high-profile endorsements by the day — a legendary Indiana basketball coach Wednesday, two House committee chairmen Thursday. And his rivals, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, are making the kind of rushed tactical moves that signal desperation.
The party is at a turning point. Republican stalwarts opposed to Trump remain fearful of the damage the unconventional and unruly billionaire might inflict on the party’s down-ballot candidates in November. But many also now see him as the all-but-certain nominee and are exhausted by the prospect of a contested July convention, according to interviews this week with more than a dozen party figures from coast to coast.
“People are realizing that he’s the likely nominee,” said Tim Pawlenty, a former Minnesota governor and onetime endorser of Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida. “The hysteria has died down, and the range of emotion is from resignation to enthusiasm.”
In Colorado — where Cruz outfoxed Trump in a series of clamorous meetings earlier this month to win all of the state’s 34 available delegates — former state party chairman Dick Wadhams said, “Fatigue is probably the perfect description of what people are feeling.”
He continued: “There is an acceptance, a resignation or whatever, that Trump is going to be the nominee. More and more people hope he wins that nomination on the first ballot because they do not want to see a convention that explodes into total chaos. People just want this to be over with — and we need a nominee.”
With likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton pivoting to a general election and her well-funded allies readying for a full-out assault, Republicans are eager to unite quickly. Some are fearful that waiting until the convention in Cleveland to pick a nominee would put the party at a disadvantage in raising money and engaging the Democrats.
“The lion’s share of Republicans want the process settled,” said Mike Dennehy, a veteran New Hampshire-based party strategist. “There’s anxiety setting in about the process, and that’s what people are tired of. They just want it done, they want the fighting to stop, and they want a general-election campaign to begin in a meaningful way.”
So does Trump. Celebrating his sweep in Tuesday’s primaries, he declared himself the “presumptive nominee.” At a rally the next day in Indianapolis, he proclaimed, “We’re just about ready to put it away, folks.”
Cruz is pushing back on the idea that Trump is nearing a lock on the nomination. He took the unusual step Wednesday of choosing a running mate, businesswoman Carly Fiorina. The new ticket, as well as independent groups opposed to Trump, see Indiana’s primary on Tuesday as their best — and perhaps last — chance to derail the front-runner and deny him the nomination.
Opposition to Trump still runs strong in parts of the GOP establishment. Former Florida governor Jeb Bush, a vocal Trump critic and former presidential candidate, praised Cruz’s pick of Fiorina in a CNN interview that aired Thursday — in part because he said “she takes on Trump really well.”
“Trump has become a fact rather than a problem,” said Newt Gingrich, a former House speaker who has offered informal advice to Trump but has not endorsed him. “Show me mathematically how you’re going to stop him. This all assumes, by the way, that the guy who wrote ‘The Art of the Deal’ can’t figure out a way to make a deal with the undecided delegates.”
Republican consultants across the country are singing the same tune. Reed Galen in Southern California said: “Is it a done deal? It’s certainly looking that way.” In Georgia, Tom Perdue said, “If you go to barbershops in Atlanta, you’ll hear people say they never thought he’d end up being the nominee, but for the most part people think he will be the nominee.”
On Thursday, Trump’s top campaign adviser, Paul Manafort, was on Capitol Hill to meet with lawmakers and press his case that Trump is becoming the de facto GOP standard-bearer.
Two prominent GOP establishment congressmen — Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania, who chairs the House Transportation Committee, and Jeff Miller of Florida, who chairs the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee — endorsed Trump on Thursday.
“It’s time for our party to unite behind Donald Trump and focus our time and energy on defeating Hillary Clinton,” Shuster said in a statement.
That echoes what Florida Gov. Rick Scott said Wednesday in a Facebook posting calling for an end to the “Never Trump” movement among conservatives: “Donald Trump is going to be our nominee, and he is going to be on the ballot as the Republican candidate for President. The Republican leaders in Washington did not choose him, but the Republican voters across America did choose him. The voters have spoken.”
In other words, we have essentially come to the same point in the 2016 cycle that every previous cycle has come to, the point at which it is clear that the candidate in the lead is going to be the nominee and that continuing to fight the inevitable will only end up harming the party and the inevitable nominee. In reality, if we were talking about any potential nominee other than Trump, this process would have begun a week ago after Trump won big in New York and Texas Senator Ted Cruz was mathematically eliminated from winning the nomination. This week seems to have been a turning point, though. First, Trump scored big wins in the Mid-Atlantic primaries which brought him within 250 delegates of clinching the nomination. Then, the Cruz campaign gave us the twin stunts of a pathetically executed “deal” between Cruz and Ohio Governor John Kasich to divide up many of the primaries between now and the end of the process on June 7th in what seems like a quixotic effort to deny Trump a delegate majority that quickly fell apart, and the exceedingly odd decision to name Carly Fiorina as his “running mate” even though he is eliminated from winning the nomination on the first ballot. All of this, combined with the general desire to bring a long primary process to an end so the party can shift focus to November, seems to be motivating Republicans who have spent the last several months lamenting the prospect of Donald Trump at the top of their ticket at least partly coming to accept a reality that was becoming apparent as early as mid-February when Trump scored a big win in the South Carolina Primary.
To be sure, not every Republican is bowing to the inevitable just yet. For one thing, the so-called “Never Trump” movement appears to be alive and well and includes a wide swath of Republicans who claim that they will not support Trump even if he becomes the Republican nominee. Whether these people will stick to their word will have to wait until Election Day, of course, but one suspects that many of them most likely will. Indeed, with Trump now effectively clinching the nomination we’re likely to see a sizable contingent of the GOP shift their focus to down ballot races in an effort to minimize the expected negative impact of a Trump candidacy. We’re unlikely to see Rob Portman campaigning with Donald Trump in Ohio, for example, or Kelly Ayotte hitting the trail with him in New Hampshire. The negative consequences of doing so in swing states would obviously outweigh any benefits that these candidates might receive.
The Cruz and Kasich campaigns, meanwhile, continue to act as if they are involved in a competitive primary battle with Trump even though both of them are mathematically eliminated from securing a majority of delegates before the convention. This week, that strategy is focused on the primary in Indiana, which takes place next Tuesday. As of now, though, Trump holds a narrow lead in the Hoosier State and it’s widely assumed that he will have effectively wrapped up the nomination if he manages to pull off a win there Tuesday night. Even if he doesn’t, though, it seems clear that Trump still has a good chance to get a delegate majority even without an Indiana win thanks to what are expected to be big wins in California and New Jersey. In other words, at this point Trump’s win seems to be more a matter of “when” than “if,” and as a result Republicans from all corners of the party will have to decide for themselves how to deal with that.