With Super Tuesday behind us, Donald Trump and the Republican National Committee both find themselves at a crossroads. The unlikely candidate who has defied all conventional wisdom must decide if he’s going to continue sticking his thumb in the eye of the Republican leadership — the so called “establishment.” The Republican leadership, for its part, must decide if it can make peace with the idea of Trump as the party standard bearer.
These things are true because given last night’s results, it is very clear that with respect to winning the Republican nomination, Donald Trump is unstoppable.
For Trump’s part, he must decide his tone and tenor going forward. The over-the-top bombast that has gotten him to this point might not be the best thing for him as primary season winds down. If he intends to beat Hillary Clinton in November, he is going to need the votes of people who would rather be voting for Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio. Right now, those voters are pretty hacked off at him.
It is therefore probably time for Trump to dial down the personal attacks – quit calling Cruz the worst liar he’s ever seen and quit calling Rubio “Little Marco.” Trump is in a commanding position to be sure. But it is still true that two out of three primary voters so far have voted for someone else.
If Trump wants to win the general election against Hillary Clinton, he will need those voters to fall in behind him. Starting now, he needs to begin courting them.
Speaking of courting, Trump also needs to begin selling the grandees of the Republican Party on the idea that it is in their best interest to get behind him. It doesn’t look like that will be an easy sell. The party blue bloods at first said that Trump would never run. Then they said he would eventually implode. Now they are reduced to sputtering and harrumphing and retreating to back rooms to run numbers on spreadsheets trying to convince themselves of mathematical scenarios by which Trump could be knocked out.
It is highly unlikely that Trump will be knocked out. The RNC must therefore decide if it is really going to defy a decisive plurality of its voters. The “Federation of the Fed Up,” as Fox New’s Brit Hume has dubbed them, they are sick and tired of being let down by the GOP.
The “Federation” has a point.
In the past two presidential cycles, the RNC did what it does – getting behind a loser from the previous cycle for the nomination. In 2008, it was John McCain, who lost the nomination to George W. Bush in 2004. In 2012, it was Mitt Romney, who lost the nomination to John McCain in 2008. It’s the “his turn” model and it’s almost a GOP tradition. (See “Bob Dole 1996.”) Republican voters are sick of it.
They’re also tired of giving Republicans the majority of the Congress in 2010 and 2014 only to see the House and Senate leadership get rolled again and again by a president whose approval numbers are under water.
So the Republican National Committee is faced with having to accept the fact that a very unlikely Donald Trump candidacy is a monster largely of their own making.
In his news conference Tuesday night, Trump for the first time began making noises about unifying the party. If the RNC truly wants to avoid a Hillary Clinton presidency, it would do well to meet the Donald halfway.