Donald Trump is cruising to the Republican presidential nomination, and the Republican political establishment thinks the party is DOOMED, DOOOOOMED!
Democrats are falling in line. Republicans are falling apart....
“If the Republican Party were an airplane, and you were looking out a passenger window, you would see surface pieces peeling off and wonder if one of the wings or engines was next,” said Tim Pawlenty, the former governor of Minnesota and a Republican candidate for president in 2012....
"I could not in good conscience vote for Trump under any circumstance,” said Blake Lichty, 33, a Republican who worked in the George W. Bush administration and now lives near Atlanta.
“If this becomes the Trump Party,” he added, “we’re going to lose a lot of people.”
... “President Trump, which I don’t believe is possible, would be an unmitigated disaster and would set the party back decades,” said Mike Murphy, a longtime Republican strategist who oversaw the “super PAC” that supported Jeb Bush this year. “It’s like a computer designed him to lose elections for us. Who does he offend? College-educated white women and Latinos, the groups we need to win.”
... For now, the revulsion for Mr. Trump could produce a nightmare scenario for Republicans on Election Day: abandonment by rank-and-file voters who, like a growing number of party leaders, cannot stomach the concept of the mogul as their standard-bearer. “I think it’s a sad day for the Republican Party,” said David Phillips, 72, an executive recruiter and longtime Republican from Avon, Conn., who called Mr. Trump “a tremendous divider.”
“If he were the nominee,” he said, reluctantly, “I would probably vote for Hillary.”
The Democratic response? What are you guys so gloomy about? We might be doomed, not you.
“It’s fair to say there’s been a graveyard already out there of people underestimating him,” said Doug Sosnik, a former Bill Clinton White House adviser. “And I am old enough to remember the sort of Democratic intelligentsia that was hoping Ronald Reagan would be nominated by Republicans in 1980 because everyone knew he was a doddering old right winger who could never get elected president.”
... Tracy Sefl, a Democratic consultant who was a senior adviser for Ready for Hillary, said Trump was the most dangerous Republican candidate to come out of the primary because he’s “unpredictable, shameless, unapologetic” -- and utilizes a non-strategy strategy that has so far worked for him.
“He doesn’t do defense. He’s immune to any sort of fundamentals of campaigning. He’s just doing it his way,” she said....
“I think Trump could beat her like a tied-up billy goat,” said Mudcat Saunders, a rural Democratic strategist who’s supporting Bernie Sanders. “There are many areas in key swing states like Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio, and Pennsylvania that look like Sherman went through and didn’t burn anything. Empty factories, empty buildings, few opportunities for young people. It’s sad. It should be no surprise to anybody that voters in those areas are gravitating to Trump.”
... ““Any place that has had manufacturing job declines, they’re very sensitive to immigration, they’re very sensitive to policies that they believe favor corporations and not them,” said Chicago Democratic operative Tom Bowen, a Rahm Emanuel political alum. “I do wonder if there’s some level of white voter that hasn’t come out in the past, a guy like Romney they thought was outsourcing their job, whereas a guy like Trump, they might actually believe that he’ll slap tariffs on Chinese imports and Mexican imports.”
... “We have a tendency to underestimate non-traditional candidates,” said a Democratic strategist who does work for the DNC but not the Clinton campaign. “Jesse Ventura got elected governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger got elected governor. These were non-political figures that had a resonant political message at a certain time in history and they found an audience.”
I really can't tell which side is right. How many angry, conservative white people will Trump turn out in his favor -- and how many motivated liberals, insulted non-whites, and appalled moderates will he inspire to vote against him? I just don't know.
I wonder whether establishment Republicans are just making a show of outrage. Maybe they want more than one flavor of Republicanism out there, so suburban moderates (and maybe some non-whites!) will agree with the establishment and vote Republican downballot, while angry Trumpites will agree with Trump and also vote for Republicans downballot. It's win-win!
Or maybe they sincerely think general-election voters won't vote for Trump, and are legitimately frightened. But they thought primary voters wouldn't vote for Trump, so why should we trust their judgment?
Meanwhile, it's been noticed that Trump is trying to tone things down a bit:
After a slew of primary victories on Super Tuesday, Donald Trump held a press conference in which he gave himself some more wiggle room on the issue of deporting undocumented immigrants from this country.
Here's a transcript of the reporter's question and the GOP front-runner's answer, from West Palm Beach, Florida:
REPORTER: Would you consider allowing the people you've said you would bring back into the country, would you allow them to stay in the country, without having them leave the country first?
TRUMP: At this moment, absolutely not. We either have a country or we don't. We either have a country or we don't. We have borders or we don't have borders. And at this moment, the answer is absolutely not.
Yeah, he said "at this moment" twice, as if he's planning to back away from the mass deportations. But if he moderates his views in a general election campaign, will the angry voters stick with him? Especially the ones who rarely vote and are turning out in the primaries only because he's been talking like an extremist? If he stops giving them red meat, will they stay home in November?
Needle-threading is hard. Richard Nixon did it in 1968, appealing to the establishment one day and the George Wallace crowd the next. But he was shrewd and had spent a couple of decades in politics. Trump is a neophyte who's going by his gut.
I don't know how this will turn out. But the establishments of both parties seem to be afraid of Trump.
Crossposted at No More Mr. Nice Blog