The Great Trump Thaw

It's begun — even his fiercest critics are resigned to his likely nomination

The Never Trump movement is still in full swing, but now there seems to be a calm resignation among the Republican leadership that Donald Trump may indeed be the party’s 2016 nominee.

The GOP, which has been at odds with Trump throughout his upstart campaign, may just have to come to terms with the idea of the billionaire businessman representing the party in the general election. With that recognition comes the responsibility of supporting his candidacy — GOP Chairman Reince Priebus, who has stoutly steered clear  of endorsing Trump, alluded to as much at the Republican National Committee’s spring meeting on Friday.

“It is essential to victory in November that we all support our candidate,” Priebus said. “This goes for everyone, whether you’re a county party chairman, an RNC member, or a presidential candidate. Politics is a team sport, and we can’t win unless we rally around whoever becomes our nominee.”

Priebus has the daunting task of uniting the Republican Party after the convention in July, when the nominee for the general election will be decided. The GOP chairman went on to promise that the nominating process at the convention would be “fair, democratic and transparent,” although he still made it clear that the nomination had to be won with the required 1,237 delegates.

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Priebus is hoping that by taking a stance and advocating for party unity, people in the Never Trump movement will follow suit as the primary calendar winds down and give Republicans a shot at winning the White House in November — even if it means supporting Trump.

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Priebus isn’t the only Republican leader to encourage unity and warn against division within the party when it comes to a potential Trump nomination. Sen. Marco Rubio said something similar in a radio interview last Wednesday when he said that he would support Trump if he is the nominee, especially since it’s apparent that Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic opponent.

“Look, let’s not divide the party,” Rubio said. “You have someone here who has all these votes, very close to get 1,237, let’s not ignore the will of the people or they’re going to be angry. Delegates may decide on that reason that they decide to vote for Donald Trump, but if they don’t it’s not illegitimate in any way.”

It appears as though insiders and leaders within the Republican Party are coming to terms with the fact that trying to destroy Trump’s chances at the nomination could ultimately be detrimental for the party. Many within the GOP now see that Trump’s campaign appealed to an angry base of voters and led to his rise as the populist candidate in tune with the people.

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What’s more, according to Politico, the American Crossroads super PAC headed by Karl Rove is even preparing for a Trump nomination — privately telling donors it can help Trump win and produce down-ticket congressional victories. Even though Rove is one of Trump’s toughest critics in public, it seems that in private he’s willing to get behind a Trump nomination if it means taking down Hillary Clinton.

Trump currently has a majority of the vote and a majority of the delegates and has capitalized on voter anger — crafting the narrative that if he is denied the nomination the will of the people would be thwarted, thus sending voters into a frenzy. If Trump doesn’t get the nomination, the GOP will splinter further, becoming a party possibly beyond repair. But if Trump does get the nomination, the GOP is hoping for voters to come to the table and support him in the general election.

“Look, if Trump wins the nomination fair and square, I think it would be bad form for some folks to take their football and go home,” said John Feehery, Republican strategist and The Hill columnist. “There were plenty of Republicans who disliked Mitt Romney but voted for him [and worked to get him elected] after he was nominated.”

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