Some Republican Party heavyweights are donning armor, loading the mortars and girding for battle — against their party’s front-runner for president.
Increasingly, anti-Trump figures are acknowledging the obvious: that hurting the New York billionaire increases the likelihood that Democrat Hillary Clinton will win the 2016 election and continue President Obama’s policies for another four years. And they are OK with that.
Way back when South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham was running for president, he committed to backing the Republican ticket even if Trump headed it. Recently, he has offered a half-hearted endorsement of Sen. Ted Cruz — while arguing that Gov. John Kasich actually is more qualified to be president — as a tactical move against Trump.
“We can lose in 2016, and we probably will,” Graham said on “Morning Joe” on Thursday. “Trump gets wiped out; Cruz makes it competitive … If Trump is the standard-bearer, it’s not about 2016, it’s about losing the heart and soul of the conservative movement. I’m not going to stand behind a guy who gets David Duke’s support.”
Notwithstanding his previous pledge to support the Republican nominee, Graham said, “I’m not voting for Clinton. Ask me after the convention who I’ll vote for.”
Former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele echoed those sentiments, and House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., joined the fray Wednesday in a speech at the House Ways and Means Committee hearing room. While never mentioning Trump by name, Ryan said that he was “disheartened” by the nation’s political discourse.
“We don’t insult people into agreeing with us,” he said.
If the November matchup is Trump vs. Clinton, the Democratic candidate hardly will have to pay to produce new attack ads against her opponent. She can simply recycle the ones run by Trump’s primary opponents and the Super PACS friendly to them.
According to the Associated Press, broadcast TV viewers across the country so far have seen 68 different anti-Trump commercials that have been shown about 40,000 times. That is roughly 10 percent of all political ads over the past year. Justin Barasky, a spokesman for the pro-Clinton Priorities USA, told AP that Trump’s Republican critics are “saving us money by beating him up.”
If Trump does overcome Establishment opposition to become the GOP nominee, much of the incoming fire from the Right likely will subside. But he might not be able to count on much help from the GOP’s normal benefactors. The Washington Post reported Wednesday that the political network of billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other big donors are moving toward a strategy that cuts out Trump in an attempt to protect vulnerable congressional Republicans up for re-election.
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Laura Ingraham said on her radio show Thursday that it is yet more evidence that many Republican insiders are closer to Clinton than the base of their own party.
“OK, so the Establishment is already saying that it’s fine to have Hillary win,” she said. “Aren’t we supposed to want to win as conservatives?”
Ingraham said Republicans dismayed by the choice of rank-and-file GOP voters need to realize that they cannot get their ideal candidate in every election. She questioned why there was no Establishment hand wringing over the troubling tone when Graham complained about the “loud people” or joked that someone could get away with murder if the victim were Cruz and it occurred on the Senate floor. Or when former President George W. Bush labeled skeptics of runaway trade deals and uncontrolled immigration as nativists and protectionists.
“I find that a lot more insulting than a candidate who just pops off every once in a while,” she said.