The GOP Establishment has finally recognized that its bête noir, Donald Trump, is not going away soon — and perhaps not ever. And so, with many of their favored candidates looking dog tired and on their last legs, there are signs Establishment players are starting to cuddle up to the snarling hound at the front of the pack.
What appears to have become increasingly clear to at least some in the Establishment is that, just maybe, the prospect of another eight years of the Clintons makes Trump look not all that unpalatable.
“Preparing for Trump rather than warming up to Trump is how I would put it,” said John Feehery, long time adviser to congressional Republicans and a political pundit. “I do think most Establishment types (including me) would support Trump if he gets the nomination,” he said in an email.
There are suddenly new signs that Establishment types are beginning to resign to the notion that Trump may well be the nominee. In a recent interview with Time, Republican National Committee chairman, Reince Priebus, called Trump a part of the GOP “varsity team” of candidates. Priebus in the past has called out Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric, specifically in regard to immigration and his proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the United States.
Former House Speaker New Gingrich, too, is moving that way. “People are going to say, ‘Whoever the Republican nominee is, I am for them.’ ” Gingrich also claimed the Establishment would have to support Trump as the nominee because if it didn’t, the Clintons would then reclaim the White House.
Others are jumping on what is already a crowded bandwagon — even those who harbor some doubt. “There is no question that GOP insiders and operatives are concerned about Trump because he is re-writing the rules and is the furthest thing from the safe choice,” said American Conservative Union Chairman and former George W. Bush aide Matt Schlapp.
But he added, “I do think Mr. Trump has fostered a great relationship with the national committee and with other important Republican and conservative leaders.”
Schlapp noted elite opinion was echoing that of average Republicans. “The polls clearly show that an overwhelming number of Republican primary voters thought the Trump candidacy at its beginning was a joke, but those numbers have dramatically reversed and now most Republicans believe it is a serious effort,” Schlapp said.
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“I hope Republican leaders are smart enough to realize the Trump phenomenon will not end at the end of this election,” he said. “He will continue to be a political force and his supporters will matter. It is clearly in the interest of the GOP to incorporate the Trump supporters in the broad coalition of voices in the party.”
There appears to be a growing recognition among those who at the outset couldn’t fathom a Trump presidency, that he may be helping the GOP by breathing life back into the very fractured Party.
In mid-June, the Weekly Standard published the following: “We’re not Trump enthusiasts. We’re not even Trump fellow travelers. We’re closer to Trump deriders.” Now, in what appears to be a telling statement, Weekly Standard editor, Bill Kristol, in a piece titled “Thank You Donald” wrote, “And so, six months later, while we will continue to believe Donald Trump should not be the nominee, we also offer a suggestion that will perhaps invite ridicule: The Republican party has not been hurt by Trump’s candidacy. Indeed, the GOP may well have benefited from it.”
Even Fox News contributor Charles Krauthammer, who has been an outspoken critic of Trump’s fiery rhetoric and policies, recently announced he had something positive to say, asserting that Trump’s attacks on Hillary were an effective strategy.
“In a way it’s sort of to get the country prepared for him to be the standard bearer,” Krauthammer said on Fox News’ “Special Report.” “I think that it works for him in the sense that it makes everyone else look small — ‘I’m the only guy who will do this and who has sort of the moxie to go ahead and to do it and not be afraid.’ And I think this is all about him rising above the other candidates on the Republican side. He’s using her (Hillary Clinton) as a foil, and I must say effectively.”
Over at the National Review, which has been consistently hostile toward Trump, Hoover Institution research fellow Jeremy Carl found something positive beyond the “vulgarities” of Trump.
“For all his failings, his vulgarities, and his hypocrisy, Donald Trump is a man who sees what he sees — and says so.,” Carl said. “For the sake of the future of the Grand Old Party, let us hope that, with a more optimistic tone and a better set of policy prescriptions, more of us do likewise.”
The GOP Establishment is weak, and those lifting their voices in anger against the Establishment are a force to be reckoned with — something they may now recognize. It also can’t be overstated that Republicans can’t win in November without Trump supporters.
Better put, the GOP Establishment has everything to lose, and Trump has everything to gain. And increasingly, they know it.