Think for a moment about Trump headlining the GOP 2016 ticket. Gives you the willies, right?
Now think about Trump the Triumphant as President. Heart palpitations, rapid breathing, cold sweats - all indicators of a panic attack. Now you can imagine what the GOP insiders are going through - according to a report in the New York Times.
For months, much of the Republican Party’s establishment has been uneasy about the rise of Donald J. Trump, concerned that he was overwhelming the presidential primary contest and encouraging other candidates to mimic his incendiary speech. Now, though, irritation is giving way to panic as it becomes increasingly plausible that Mr. Trump could be the party’s standard-bearer and imperil the careers of other Republicans.
But what will the party of Godawful Overarching Panic do? What can they do? How? When?
Many leading Republican officials, strategists and donors now say they fear that Mr. Trump’s nomination would lead to an electoral wipeout, a sweeping defeat that could undo some of the gains Republicans have made in recent congressional, state and local elections. But in a party that lacks a true leader or anything in the way of consensus — and with the combative Mr. Trump certain to scorch anyone who takes him on — a fierce dispute has arisen about what can be done to stop his candidacy and whether anyone should even try.
Some of the highest-ranking Republicans in Congress and some of the party’s wealthiest and most generous donors have balked at trying to take down Mr. Trump because they fear a public feud with the insult-spewing media figure. Others warn that doing so might backfire at a time of soaring anger toward political insiders.
That has led to a standoff of sorts: Almost everyone in the party’s upper echelons agrees something must be done, and almost no one is willing to do it.
Read the article for more quotes from GOP insiders. The Times wraps up as follows.
Slowly, some members of the party’s establishment are reckoning with the idea of a Trump ticket. The National Republican Senatorial Committee has cautioned its incumbents in blunt terms not to let themselves be linked to him.
But beyond sheer intimidation, some members of Congress worry that if the party’s establishment went after Mr. Trump, it would only fuel his anti-Washington appeal.
"I think it would play into his hands and only validate him," said Senator Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee. "A ‘Stop Trump’ effort wouldn’t work, and it might help him."
And some Republicans repelled by Mr. Trump feel little urgency to attack him because, they say, he is preventing what they see as an even less desirable standard-bearer — Senator Ted Cruz of Texas — from consolidating the votes of hard-line conservatives.
"He’s keeping Cruz where he is," Scott Reed, a veteran Republican strategist, said of Mr. Trump.
The net result of all this is inaction by the GOP insiders and supporters. They worry about Trump but don't know what to do.
Steve Benen at MaddowBlog explains some of what's tying the GOP in knots.
... the Iowa caucuses are now less than two months away and the prospect of Trump actually prevailing no longer seems ridiculous. It creates a dynamic with multiple angles:
Down ballot: Republican insiders aren’t just convinced that Trump would lose a general election in a landslide; they also believe he would undermine the party’s candidates at every level. This increases the odds of some kind of party-wide revolt, though no one has any idea what that might look like, and there is no obvious anti-Trump standard-bearer for the party to rally behind.
Electability: Party insiders are faced with a challenge for which there is no obvious solution: they see Trump as the least electable candidate, while polls show Republican voters themselves see Trump as the most electable candidate. It’s not that the GOP base has decided electability is irrelevant; the trouble for the party is that many of these voters have already decided that Trump is their best bet for victory.
Those are just two of the angles explored by Benen.
With respect to Trump suppressing Cruz, Benen says: "It’s a lingering question that the party may not be able to avoid much longer: which of these two do they hate more?"