Sunday, February 28, 2016

"Inside the Republican Party’s Desperate Mission to Stop Donald Trump." When it fails, will they Jump for Trump?

Reported in the New York Times By ALEXANDER BURNS, MAGGIE HABERMAN and JONATHAN MARTIN FEB. 27, 201 -- and much more.

Some establishment Republicans have been scrambling for a way to prevent him from becoming the party’s presidential nominee.

Notice I did not say "if it fails." I said "when it fails." When it comes to Republicans, I confess to being a perpetual pessimist. But we shall carry on.

The scenario Karl Rove outlined was bleak.

Addressing a luncheon of Republican governors and donors in Washington on Feb. 19, he warned that Donald J. Trump’s increasingly likely nomination would be catastrophic, dooming the party in November. But Mr. Rove, the master strategist of George W. Bush’s campaigns, insisted it was not too late for them to stop Mr. Trump, according to three people present.

At a meeting of Republican governors the next morning, Paul R. LePage of Maine called for action. Seated at a long boardroom table at the Willard Hotel, he erupted in frustration over the state of the 2016 race, saying Mr. Trump’s nomination would deeply wound the Republican Party. Mr. LePage urged the governors to draft an open letter “to the people,” disavowing Mr. Trump and his divisive brand of politics.

Hold that thought - LePage disavowing Trump - and read on.

In public, there were calls for the party to unite behind a single candidate. In dozens of interviews, elected officials, political strategists and donors described a frantic, last-ditch campaign to block Mr. Trump — and the agonizing reasons that many of them have become convinced it will fail. Behind the scenes, a desperate mission to save the party sputtered and stalled at every turn.

Efforts to unite warring candidates behind one failed spectacularly: An overture from Senator Marco Rubio to Mr. Christie angered and insulted the governor. An unsubtle appeal from Mitt Romney to John Kasich, about the party’s need to consolidate behind one rival to Mr. Trump, fell on deaf ears.

At least two campaigns have drafted plans to overtake Mr. Trump in a brokered convention, and the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, has laid out a plan that would have lawmakers break with Mr. Trump explicitly in a general election.

Despite all the forces arrayed against Mr. Trump, the interviews show, the party has been gripped by a nearly incapacitating leadership vacuum and a paralytic sense of indecision and despair, as he has won smashing victories in South Carolina and Nevada. Donors have dreaded the consequences of clashing with Mr. Trump directly. Elected officials have balked at attacking him out of concern that they might unintentionally fuel his populist revolt. And Republicans have lacked someone from outside the presidential race who could help set the terms of debate from afar.

Republicans have ruefully acknowledged that they came to this dire pass in no small part because of their own passivity. There were ample opportunities to battle Mr. Trump earlier; more than one plan was drawn up only to be rejected. Rivals who attacked him early, like Rick Perry and Bobby Jindal, the former governors of Texas and Louisiana, received little backup and quickly faded.

Major donors apparently have no appetite for a Tussle with Trump.

Resistance to Mr. Trump still runs deep. The party’s biggest benefactors remain totally opposed to him. At a recent presentation hosted by the billionaires Charles G. and David H. Koch, the country’s most prolific conservative donors, their political advisers characterized Mr. Trump’s record as utterly unacceptable, and highlighted his support for government-funded business subsidies and government-backed health care, according to people who attended.

But the Kochs, like Mr. Adelson, have shown no appetite to intervene directly in the primary with decisive force.

Some candidates and Senate Majority Leader McConnell are planning a fight at the Republican convention.

... Mr. Trump’s challengers are staking their hopes on a set of guerrilla tactics and long-shot possibilities, racing to line up mainstream voters and interest groups against his increasingly formidable campaign. Donors and elected leaders have begun to rouse themselves for the fight, but perhaps too late.

Two of Mr. Trump’s opponents [Rubio and Kasich] have openly acknowledged that they may have to wrest the Republican nomination from him in a deadlocked convention.

“There’s this desire, verging on panic, to consolidate the field,” said Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a former supporter of Mr. Bush. “But I don’t see any movement at all.”

In response, some Republican party leaders seem resigned to a triumphant Trump.

... already, a handful of senior party leaders have struck a conciliatory tone toward Mr. Trump. Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the House majority leader, said on television that he believed he could work with him as president. Many in the party acknowledged a growing mood of resignation.

Fred Malek, the finance chairman of the Republican Governors Association, said the party’s mainstream had simply run up against the limits of its influence.

“There’s no single leader and no single institution that can bring a diverse group called the Republican Party together, behind a single candidate,” Mr. Malek said. “It just doesn’t exist.”

On Friday, a few hours after Mr. Christie endorsed him, Mr. Trump collected support from a second governor, who in a radio interview said Mr. Trump could be “one of the greatest presidents.”

Remember the thought I asked you to hold?

That governor was Paul LePage.

So consolidating the remaining field of Republican candidates is not faring at all well. The remaining candidates are busily jockeying for position, offending each other, and defending themselves against Trump's attacks. The big money guys - that is, the guys with REALLY big bucks - do not appear willing to take on Trump. There are plans to broker the Republican convention but who knows how those might unravel if Trump keeps racking up more delegates. Yes, you could say that there is a sense of panic among Republicans emerging from this list of ongoing failures to derail Trump.

If they are so concerned, where is the opposition research on Donald Trump. I would expect a black book of Trumpisms and more in each Democratic candidates's campaign files. But if the Republicans are so worried where is their research? Paul Waldman (Washington Post/Plum Line) has a simple answer: none.

Sam Stein has the most amazing story of the day, on how nobody has bothered to do opposition research on Donald Trump yet:

Multiple Republican campaign sources and operatives have confided that none of the remaining candidates for president have completed a major anti-Trump opposition research effort. There are several such efforts being run by outside conservative organizations. But those efforts are still gathering intel on the businessman after having started late in the primary season, these sources told The Huffington Post. And they worry that it may come too late.

“It is one of the many ways we underestimated him, I suppose,” conceded one top Republican campaign official whose candidate has since exited the race.

No kidding. One does have to marvel at the implicit incompetence of the GOP's reaction to Trump.

The question of what Republicans will, or can, do about Trump was addressed by Rachel Maddow in her interview with the former Republican National Committee communications director, Doug Heye. He thinks it is past time for the Republicans to give Trump serious scrutiny, not just media attention. The question is whether the onslaught from Rubio and Cruz will be enough. Heye has authored an essay about why he, as a Republican operative, will not support Trump. Here are snippets with Heye's main points.

Credit Trump for this: when confronted with tough questions or bad poll numbers, he knows what to do: cynically create yet another outrage du jour taking the media’s focus away from Trump’s lack of knowledge or substance on the challenges facing America onto much more comfortable ground, the six-month running Mad Libs of calculated shocking comments – attacking minorities, a candidate’s face, a reporter’s disability or even bathroom breaks. As every Trump interview shows, the Emperor not only does not have any clothes; he does not have any answers.

Donald Trump as the Republican nominee would be catastrophic for Republican hopes to win the White House and maintain control of the Senate and would damage the party and the conservative cause for years to come. His having the legitimacy that comes with the nomination of a major political party would cause greater instability throughout the world at a time when the world looks to America for leadership that is serious and sober.

As a longtime conservative Republican campaign and Congressional aide, and former official of the Republican National Committee, not voting for the Republican nominee is an unimaginable scenario. But for the sake of my party and indeed, my country, while I will certainly vote for some Republican in November, if Trump is the nominee, I cannot vote for my party’s nominee.

Cynics like to say America gets the politicians it deserves. If Republicans nominate Trump, that cliché may actually be true.

As a loyal and proud conservative Republican, I cannot help make that happen by voting for a Trump-led ticket in 2016.

But hey! Heye is just one guy in the GOP. One big question is whether the establishment can recruit enough folks like Heye to rouse public opinion through investigative journalism and appeal to conservative principles and thereby take down Trump.

Consider the other difficulties, say, of convincing candidates to drop out and unite behind a single candidate in opposition to Trump. Consider the uncertainties of knocking Trump off at the convention. Consider what it would take to unite the Republican party behind Rubio who keeps finishing 3rd. Those are hard problems, so why do the establishment Republicans not take the easier path? They could just bend over, stick their heads in the sand, and present their hind quarters to The Donald.

Scriber's prediction: More and more GOWPers (Greedy Old White Politicians) will Jump for Trump. I even have a kind of model in mind, namely the "5 stages of grief". The Republican establishment has passed through denial, voiced its anger, took a shot at bargaining, and is now somewhere between depression and acceptance. The grief model is appropriate: the ascendancy of Donald Trump marks the death of the Republican party as we once knew it. All that might be left for the establishment Republicans is for them to accept their fate at the hands of their Trumpenstein creation.

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