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Eye On Candidates
May 2, 2016

Is GOP resigning itself to Trump?

Josh Kraushaar of National Journal has an interesting article this morning suggesting that despite concerns about what the nomination of businessman Donald Trump would likely mean for the Republican Party in November, dislike of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is pushing many of the party's leaders to acquiesce to Trump's nomination.

GOP Leaders Surrender to Trump

If Don­ald Trump goes onto to win In­di­ana’s primary Tues­day, all but guar­an­tee­ing him the Re­pub­lic­an pres­id­en­tial nom­in­a­tion, the story of the GOP cam­paign will be the party lead­er­ship’s ac­qui­es­cence to the bil­lion­aire busi­ness­man. Former House Speak­er John Boehner, at a crit­ic­al mo­ment, pub­licly pro­claimed his hatred for Ted Cruz this week (“Lu­ci­fer in the flesh”) and said he would vote for Trump, an oc­ca­sion­al golf­ing part­ner and “tex­ting buddy.” Most sen­at­ors’ re­la­tion­ships with Cruz are so poor that they’ve re­mained on the side­lines in­stead of ral­ly­ing be­hind the Texas sen­at­or to stop Trump. If it wer­en’t for Trump’s self-in­flic­ted wounds after pivotal vic­tor­ies, the nom­in­a­tion would be his by now.  

In­di­ana provides the last chance for Re­pub­lic­an lead­ers to make a mean­ing­ful im­pact on the race, and most have been re­luct­ant to do so—even though the state is still com­pet­it­ive and a Cruz vic­tory would again al­ter the tra­ject­ory of the primary. Gov. Mike Pence, a hero to con­ser­vat­ives for years, be­latedly (and some­what per­func­tor­ily) en­dorsed Cruz on Fri­day. He did so after com­ing un­der re­lent­less pres­sure from al­lies who wondered why he was stay­ing on the side­lines in such a cru­cial con­test. Pence clearly was wor­ried about ali­en­at­ing the state’s bloc of Trump sup­port­ers in a year he’s run­ning for reelec­tion, and he went out of his way to praise Trump be­fore an­noun­cing his sup­port for Cruz. “I’m not against any­body, but I’m vot­ing for Ted Cruz,” Pence said....

What makes this GOP sur­render so re­mark­able is that, by not fight­ing Trump more ag­gress­ively, Re­pub­lic­ans are act­ing against their own self-in­terest. This rarely hap­pens in polit­ics. As I’ve out­lined pre­vi­ously, a Trump nom­in­a­tion risks severe down-bal­lot losses. Cruz, while a weak nom­in­ee, would be more likely to keep the party (un­com­fort­ably) to­geth­er—with a fight­ing chance to de­feat Hil­lary Clin­ton. It’s why Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, in a tough reelec­tion bid of his own, pub­licly an­nounced that he voted for Cruz in his blue-state primary. A na­tion­al Demo­crat­ic land­slide in 2016 would likely end Pence’s polit­ic­al ca­reer in In­di­ana.  

With Trump as the nom­in­ee, he be­comes the new party boss—at least for sev­er­al months, and po­ten­tially longer. As a per­son who prizes loy­alty above all else, he’ll un­doubtedly have scores to settle. Anti-Trump Re­pub­lic­ans who stayed si­lent as Trump bull­dozed his way through the Re­pub­lic­an Party will be in for a rude awaken­ing un­der their new mas­ter.

Politics is often about making difficult choices, and it is likely to be a while before we learn whether, in potentially accepting a Trump nomination, many Republican Party leaders have made the right one.