Whether Republicans like it or not, billionaire real-estate magnate and entertainer Donald Trump is becoming the new face of the GOP. While Democrats are delighted at the prospect of running a candidate against Trump (both Sanders and Clinton outperform Trump in head-to-head matchups according to a number of polls), it has Establishment Republicans terrified. As a result, Trump’s own party is now calling for his takedown.
Katie Packer, who helped run Mitt Romney’s Presidential campaign in 2012, told the media, “At some point, the things he says go from being ‘crazy old Donald Trump’ to defining — this is how Republicans think and feel…and that’s dangerous.”
Indeed it is. One reason that the GOP lost to Obama in 2012 is because the Hispanic (largely Cuban-American) base abandoned the Republican party in droves. This year, Trump’s comments about Mexican immigrants, referring to them as “dangerous criminals” and calling for wholesale deportations has alienated Hispanic voters across the board. Even though most Mexican-Americans tend to vote Democratic, the fact remains that no candidate has been able to secure the nomination or the election without Latino support. In addition, Trump’s gratuitous sexist comments have done little to endear him to women voters.
Then, there is the issue of Trump’s past coming back to haunt him. As a personal friend of Bill and Hillary Clinton, Trump has supported Democratic candidate as often as he has Republicans. He’s been frank about hedging his bets and playing both ends against the middle for his own benefit. There is also the matter of his past financial dealings, the numerous lawsuits to which he has been a party, and the fact that four of his companies wound up filing for bankruptcy.
Currently, the Democratic Party has researchers from American Bridge 21st Century busy at work, going through court records and Securities and Exchange Commission filings in order to dig up dirt on Trump. The Dems are keeping their powder dry for the moment, saving this ammunition for later in the game. Ben Ray, a spokesman for American Bridge, explains:
The longer Donald Trump is high-fiving Jeb Bush and forcing (Sens.) John McCain and Rob Portman to say they’d back him in a general election, the more he’s making clear the Republican Party’s priorities, and how out of touch they are with American values and middle-class families.
That is exactly what the Republicans fear the most. The Democratic strategy involves allowing Trump to dig himself into a political grave through the presentation of Web videos showing the GOP front-runner as the poster boy for the entire Republican Party. Instead of direct attacks, the videos feature statements such as “Trump may be running for President, but his ideas are running the Republican Party.” One video even refers to the GOP as the “Retrumplican Party.”
The truth contained in these videos is what has the GOP running scared and its leaders calling for Trump’s ousting. Up until now, Republican supporters and leaders have avoided attacks on Trump for fear that he would leave and run as an independent, his promises to the contrary notwithstanding. There are also serious concerns that any direct action against Trump could backfire and wind up rallying his anti-Establishment base. It hasn’t stopped rival Jeb Bush, once considered the GOP’s best hope for the White House, from calling Trump a “zombie candidate” – in other words, a candidate who can’t or won’t accept the fact that his campaign is dead.
But, as GOP strategist Stuart Stevens points out, the mythical Haitian creatures – the walking dead of popular horror films – don’t die a second time without help. In a recent tweet, Stevens said, “Never saw one commit suicide – takes killing.”
This is the conclusion to which Republican leaders are quickly coming. In fact, that killing process started several weeks ago with a $1 million ad campaign in Iowa, courtesy of the Club for Growth, a Koch-funded, right-wing, pro-corporate political group. The ads were intended to convince primary voters that Trump is a “tax-and-spend liberal”, and a Democrat attempting to pass himself off as a Republican. They also raise concerns about Trump’s support of “eminent domain” and the dangers of people losing their property.
Considering that Trump’s support has never been higher among GOP voters (he’s currently in first place, polling at a whopping 32%), those ads accomplished very little. Nobody is quite certain what Establishment Republican leaders will do to try and stop the Trumpster juggernaut – not even the GOP. However, given “the Donald’s” soaring popularity and growing support, as well as the anti-Establishment, anti-politician tone of this election cycle, they’ll have to tread carefully, lest their efforts wind up handing Trump the nomination on a golden platter – thus hastening the internal collapse of the Republican Party.