Donald Trump’s “unity” meeting yesterday at the Republican National Committee contained some incredible breaking news, though it’s odd they chose to reveal it on Jimmy Kimmel.
Of course there are many millions of Republicans across the country who wish this announcement was true, in large part because they recognize the facts so many Trump supporters strongly refuse to engage: that Trump would be least-popular major-party nominee in modern times. “Trump’s unpopularity in the Post-ABC poll was driven in part by sharply negative ratings from Democrats and lukewarm Republicans. The greatest risk for his general election viability stems from the unusually poor ratings he gets from swing-voting independents and white college graduates.”
Among white women, who Mitt Romney won in 2012 by 56 percent to 42 percent, Trump’s unfavorable ratings are 68-29. Among Independents, who Romney won by five points, Trump is unfavorable by 64-33. And among white college graduates, who Romney also won not even accounting for race, Trump is upside down by 74-23. These numbers spell one word: doom. In order to argue with a straight face that Donald Trump has a conceivable path to the White House, one essentially has to argue that he will achieve the most dramatic reversal in public perception of a presidential candidate in the history of modern politics in the space of six months.
Cruz Finds Softer Side
And then there is Ted Cruz, who is exploiting the damage Trump has done to himself in the past two weeks by showing a softer side, with events featuring not just surrogates like Carly Fiorina but his wife and his mother to a greater degree.
“I want all the women here in Wisconsin and across this country to know how incredibly supportive Ted … has always been of all the women in his life,” Heidi Cruz said near the end of the program. “This is a son who was by his mother’s side when she had breast cancer. This is a husband who has suggested that I go for every single promotion I’ve ever gotten — it has always been Ted’s idea that I join the team, that I apply for the job, that I run the group.” … By the time they were finished, Cruz’s wife and mother had done for him what he has struggled to do for himself: Tamed the image of a candidate known primarily for being a political brawler,” Tim Alberta reports. The latest numbers in Wisconsin, regardless of the poll, show significant gender gaps in favor of Cruz, a trend which is likely to continue barring a dramatic shift on Trump’s part.
But even as Cruz succeeds in profiting from Trump’s self-induced decline, even as polling shows him leading Hillary Clinton in a general election, there is still significant resistance to him as a candidate. Karl Rove wants a white knight: “If we have somebody who we think has been battle tested, and has strong conservative principles and the ability to articulate them, and they are nominated at this convention, there will be a lot of acrimony from the people who were seeking the nomination. But if it’s somebody who has, you know, has those convictions that they can express in a compelling way, we could come out of the convention in relatively strong position… a fresh face might be the thing that could give us a chance to turn this election and win in November against Hillary.”
Cruz disputes this of course. “If you want to beat Donald Trump, the way to do so is not some backroom deal in Washington that steals the nomination and hands it to someone who hasn’t won at the ballot box. The way instead is to beat Donald trump at the polls.”
Many Trump supporting commentators are suggesting that if this happens – if Trump goes into the convention with the most delegates, but not 1237, and was denied the nomination on a future ballot, that Trump could bolt the party and take his voters with him. Republican officials will have to evaluate that as part of the risk entailed with dumping Trump. As those negatives tick up and they feel the risk for their jobs in the Senate and the House, they are thinking about parachuting in an alternative to both these candidates. The blowback from rejecting Trump is risky enough – adding Cruz to that rejection could be even more catastrophic.
Thus, the scene: an underground kitchen, tables in a circle. Around it sit the leaders of the Republican Party – donors, delegates, organizations, elected officials, party bigwigs. They look nervously at the golden haired orange threat on their screen. And in comes the one they all dismissed – the candidate they thought was crazy, whacko, a clown – and he promises them despite all their hesitation, he is the only one who can conceivably eliminate the threat, and let them all keep their jobs. And what does he want in return for this?
Half. You keep the Senate and the House. He gets a shot at the White House. He might not get it. But if he does?
Half is a tough ask, yes. But it’s a lot better than losing it all.