As the many efforts to keep Donald Trump ‘on message’ and away from the kinds of incendiary off-the-cuff remarks that seem to cause daily controversy have failed, party leaders have worried that his sliding poll number will drag other GOP candidates down as well, threatening their hold on both houses of Congress and state legislatures.
There have been increasing calls from conservative media and present and party leaders for the party to cut its losses and abandon Trump and put all their resources into supporting all the other candidates.
As he skips from one gaffe to the next, GOP leaders in Washington and in the most competitive states have begun openly contemplating turning their backs on their party’s presidential nominee to prevent what they fear will be wide-scale Republican losses on Election Day.
“He can’t simply continue to preach to the choir and think he’s going to put together a coalition that will win the White House,” said Ryan Williams, a party strategist and former aide to 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney. “He’s essentially guaranteeing that he will lose by refusing to clean up his mistakes and stop committing future ones.”
More than 100 GOP officials, including at least six former members of Congress and more than 20 former staffers at the Republican National Committee, have signed a letter asking the party chairman, Reince Priebus, to stop helping Trump’s campaign.
They call the New York real estate mogul a threat to the party and to the nation. They want the RNC to take resources now helping Trump and shift them to vulnerable GOP candidates for House and Senate.
The letter follows a steady stream of recent defections from Republican elected officials and longtime strategists who vow never to support Trump. They want party leaders to acknowledge that backing his White House bid is a waste of time and money.
“They’re going to do it sooner or later. They might as well do it sooner to have more impact,” said former Minnesota Rep. Vin Weber, one of the Republicans to sign the letter to Priebus.
Those advocating such an action say that there is a precedent for it, pointing to 1996 when their nominee Bob Dole looked like he was heading for certain defeat in his race against the incumbent Bill Clinton and the party pretty much gave up on him, with party leaders tacitly assuming his loss in their public statements.
I think that this precedent has no value because Dole and Trump are two vastly different people even if they both seem to be headed for losses. Dole is the ultimate party loyalist, a Republican to the core. He would undoubtedly have been hurt by the party’s abandonment of him after so many years of loyal service but being the good soldier that he was, he would have swallowed his pride and continued to help the party. Note that he was the only former living party presidential nominee to attend this year’s Republican convention, despite being in poor health for some time. If anyone had a good excuse for skipping it, Dole had, but being the loyalist he is, he went for it anyway.
Trump is the complete opposite. He has no loyalty to the party whatsoever. In addition, he harbors grudges against those who he thinks are working against him and would react angrily and vindictively if he felt betrayed. If he felt that the party was cutting him loose, he would think nothing of launching a relentless and extended war against the GOP for its actions and essentially running against the party, damaging it even more, thinking that if they are taking him down, he would take down with him those he felt were responsible.
The Republican party is in a bind. They have truly grabbed the proverbial tiger by the tail. However much they may be appalled at Trump’s erratic behavior, they are stuck with him and there is no escape.