July 14, 2016
Until he actually becomes the official nominee a week from now, there’s still technically a chance the GOP nominee could, ever so possibly, be someone other than Donald Trump. You shouldn’t bet on it unless you get insanely good odds though. And only bet money you’re very prepared to lose.
More Republican insiders, delegates, and other elected officials are opposed to the nominee than any time since 1964. There are delegates pledged to Trump who strongly prefer Ted Cruz. Trump has record low favorability ratings. He’s somehow still trailing Hillary Clinton in more polls than not, even after FBI Director James Comey explained in great detail where she went terribly wrong with her email server.
The Supreme Court is at stake. So is the Senate. Even so, we’re further from a convention revolt than ever. Just in case, GOP Chair Reince Preibus is pulling together a whip team to make sure delegates stay in line. He doesn’t have much to worry about.
If Trump were trailing by 10 to 12 points in the polls, something that was feasible pre-Comey, and most vulnerable GOP senators were noticeably trailing in their contests, it would be a different story. Instead, Trump is now up to about a 30% chance of winning in the FiveThirtyEight estimate. That’s before any bounce from naming a VP choice, or any positive happenings at the convention.
It’s not difficult at all for a delegate to convince himself it’s a 50/50 shot. If you think Trump is doomed to lose, it makes solid sense to risk a brawl at the convention to remove him as the nominee. If it’s a coin flip, completely different story. If you’re certain he’s going to cost Republicans the Senate and cause general down-ballot wreckage, doing nothing is worse than doing something.
But aside from Mark Kirk in Illinois and Ron Johnson in Wisconsin, most vulnerable GOP senators are ahead right now, sometimes by a semi-comfortable margin. New polls in battleground states are showing close contests. Even if Trump loses in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and/or Florida by a couple points, today’s numbers are showing he won’t make it impossible for Pat Toomey, Rob Portman, and Marco Rubio.
Ted Cruz and Paul Ryan are speaking at the convention. It’s highly unlikely they’ll spend their time talking up Trump. Instead they’ll talk about what conservatism means to them and why Hillary must be stopped. Cruz has not pledged to endorse Trump. However, they’ll both run their speeches past him. Neither will call the floor to arms to overthrow The Donald.
Ryan didn’t just spend a whole CNN town hall defending his endorsement of Trump as a binary decision (Trump/Clinton) to have a hand in convincing Mitt Romney or someone else to ride to Cleveland on a white horse. People with various delegate counting methods are indicating fewer and fewer wayward/rebellious delegates. Each day the numbers get worse for #NeverTrump.
John Kasich is making noises about 2020. Rubio is busy with his Senate campaign. No rising star, from Tim Scott to Nikki Haley to Susana Martinez to the strongly anti-Trump Ben Sasse, has shown the slightest interest in being drafted.
Trump will likely select Mike Pence, Chris Christie, or Newt Gingrich as his running mate. Pence is exactly the consensus-type, generic Republican #NeverTrump would have happily rallied around. Choosing him is yet another nail in their coffin. Christie isn’t exactly at his apex of popularity, but for the more moderate #NeverTrumpers, a ticket with him on it is less reason to push forward on ditching Trump.
And then there’s Newt. Another faction of #NeverTrumpers are Newt fans, even if he didn’t completely win them over during his 2012 run. Having him on board would take a little steam out of the failing effort too. It’s just not going to happen. Ok. So what?
The what is what might have been. Clinton is looking very, very, very beatable. It’s possible Trump is one of the few candidates who could actually lose to her. Not only could the 2008 John McCain or the 2012 Romney defeat her, it’s very likely the 2016 versions could too. At this point it seems like Jeb Bush could too. Without a whole lot of trouble.
So if almost anybody but Trump were running, Republicans could see themselves with the White House, Senate, House and Supreme Court. Now, not so much. How much of the party is left in 2020, who knows. Trump could still lose, but is doing well enough to make it almost impossible to get rid of him. Even if he does win, many #NeverTrumpers might prefer he’d lost.
There’s no happy ending here. Just a lot of what if.