As Republican delegates get ready to head to Cleveland for the party’s convention next week, the debate has shifted to whether party members should follow the will of Republican voters and anoint Donald Trump as the Republican nominee or whether they should act as a failsafe device and reject the unpopular choice of the voters for another candidate. Trump supporters argue that such a move would divide the GOP and make a Hillary victory inevitable. In reality, Donald Trump has already divided the Republican Party and almost definitely assured a Hillary win.
Donald Trump’s candidacy in and of itself has divided the Republican Party as no (other) Democrat could ever hope to do. Trump’s unpopularity is no longer news. The businessman’s most notable political accomplishment, aside from becoming the presumptive nominee, is making Hillary Clinton look good by comparison.
Trump’s unfavorable rating has consistently hovered in the 60 percent range according to Real Clear Politics, worse than Hillary’s approval, which itself is nothing to brag about. A New York Times poll found that Trump is considered less trustworthy than Hillary, again no mean feat, and his values are shared by fewer voters than are Hillary’s values.
Fundamental problems with Trump’s character are causing his base to splinter. The same Times poll reports that “three in ten voters who supported other Republican candidates” say that they will not support Trump in November. A more recent CNN poll found that 48 percent of Republicans would prefer that the GOP choose someone else as its nominee. NBC News and the Wall St. Journal found even more Republicans dissatisfied with Trump at 52 percent.
Prominent Republicans such as George Will, Max Boot and Hank Paulson have announced their intention to support Hillary over Trump. CNN recently reported on a grassroots “Republican Women for Hillary” movement. Even former First Lady Laura Bush has hinted that she may support Clinton over Trump.
The Republican Party is clearly divided over Donald Trump. In contrast to Trumps -30 percent net approval rating, by July 2012 Mitt Romney, another unpopular candidate, had an approval rating that broke even on average. Romney also worked hard to unify the party against President Obama and the Democrats. Trump’s attitude has been one of “my way or the highway.” Trump backer Sarah Palin has even taken to calling Trump opponents “R.A.T.’s,” an acronym for “Republicans against Trump.”
Perhaps related to Trump’s personality problems are his strategic problems. Traditional GOP donors are not rallying behind Trump. USA Today reports that the Team Trump has only $1.3 million on hand compared to $42 million for the Hillary campaign. Hillary’s campaign staff is 10 times larger than Trump’s and, according to Politico, Trump campaign staff in battleground states is almost nonexistent.
All of the above has contributed to a growing revolt against Trump. The Wall Street Journal reported last week that anti-Trump activists were close to gaining enough votes at the convention to unbind delegates. A federal ruling on Monday held that Virginia delegates could not be required by state law to vote for the winner of their state primary. As Trump’s erratic behavior continues, it seems that struggle for the nomination will be completed on the convention floor.
The bottom line for Republican delegates as they get ready to make their way to Cleveland is that they are caught between the proverbial rock and the hard place. If Donald Trump emerges from the convention as the nominee, a large number of Republicans are likely to sit out the election or vote against Trump. With a fragmented base and support cratering among Hispanics, blacks and women (where he trails by 17 percent), Trump seems to destined to lose if he is formally nominated. There simply aren’t enough Republican voters in the white male demographic, the only segment of the electorate that seems to favor him, to allow Trump to win.
On the other hand, if convention delegates are able dump Trump, the party will be split along different fault lines. Trump’s core supporters will likely desert the GOP. They may well take with them moderate Republicans who feel that the party should honor the outcome of the popular vote, even if they don’t agree with the majority’s choice of Trump. Once again, this scenario would probably end in a Clinton victory.
Republican delegates are left with an unenviable choice. Either course will, in all probability, split the party and result in Clinton presidency.
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