COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., May 8, 2016—After his hard-fought victory in Indiana last Tuesday, Donald Trump is the last man standing in a nomination process that has at times resembled a cage fight more than a rational process of a party selecting its candidate to run for the presidency. Trump and his angry mob of supporters have won—but what has been the cost? Will the Republican Party survive?
The GOP, a majority of whose members have not supported Trump along the way, is as divided as it has even been. A recent Reuters poll says that 47% support Trump because they don’t want Hillary Clinton to win the presidency; 43% like Trump’s policies; just 6% like Trump personally. In other words, Republicans may be more #NeverHillary than #NeverTrump.
Some will stay home and will not vote in November. Some dislike Trump so much they are considering Hillary.
Rasmussen found this sentiment on April 28: nearly a quarter of all voters would either stay home or vote third party in a Trump-Clinton contest, which, since that poll, has become a near-certainty.
For Republicans, with Trump as the nominee, 16% said they would choose a third party candidate, 5% would stay home and 10% would vote for Clinton instead. That left 66% who would vote for Trump.
Clinton is almost equally toxic to Democrats but 75% would vote for her. About 11% would cross over to Trump.
If Trump is to win, it will be with independents, where he leads Clinton 38% to 27% in that poll.
It is far too early to make any meaningful predictions based on current polls but one thing seems certain: Trump is not going to unify the GOP and win with Republicans, and especially conservatives.
His scorched-earth tactics on the way to the nomination have left a bad impression with Republican conservatives and moderates alike. In Colorado, for example, Trump staged a fit over losing convention delegates, calling Republicans corrupt and accusing the Colorado party of disenfranchising his supporters. This has had the effect of uniting conservatives who favored Cruz and establishment types who favored Kasich against Trump. Trump needs Colorado’s electoral votes to win but conservatives aren’t about to help him do it.
Here’s the challenge for all those angry Trumpsters who complained that they were “disenfranchised” because they couldn’t mark a ballot for their man. Now that he is the heir-apparent, will get off their backsides and work to get him elected in November?
They’d better, because many of the party faithful won’t. This is especially true for Tea Party and other liberty-minded Republicans who have learned the hard way over the last seven years that so advance your principles you must, in the words of Teddy Roosevelt, get in the arena. Making catcalls from the sidelines won’t do it.
Trump seems to have a winner-take-all mentality—and many like him for that. If he were a football coach and his team were ahead by twenty points in the fourth quarter, he wouldn’t be the kind of coach who would put in the second or third string to give them experience: he would keep the best players in to crush his opponents by forty points.
That mentality is playing out this week in his very public contest with Speaker Paul Ryan. If Trump was just “playing a role” then he hasn’t changed the role now that he’s won. The fact that GOP moderate former nominees aren’t going to Cleveland speaks to the fact that he isn’t creating unity.
Business is about beating your competition not beating it into submission.
We had the sense that Mitt Romney understood that; that he was a nice guy personally. We don’t get the same sense from Trump.
But then, Romney lost. After crushing Obama in the first presidential debate, Romney pulled his punches in the second. Will that combative spirit be what takes Trump over the top in 2016?
The Republican Party, whether it understands it yet or not, has elected it’s second businessman-turned-politician in a row. Time will tell whether it’s a winning choice.