It’s time to Break It Down!
After a three week hiatus during which I wrote about guns, Cuba, and basketball, I am pivoting and redirecting today’s post back to the Party of Lincoln and its rather interesting, if not unique effort to determine the GOP nominee for President. In previous posts the topic of the rift between Donald Trump and the Republican establishment was explored. A number of developments sprang forward, including a series of initiatives broadly referred to as the Stop Trump movement; also known as the Anti-Trump movement, and the Never Trump movement. These names are all various strands of a central theme, one centered upon the efforts of a number of Republicans and other so-called conservatives to stymie the current front-runner, Donald Trump, and his efforts to secure the Party’s nomination at the Convention in Cleveland for the 2016 U.S. Presidential election.
Trump announced his candidacy in June 2015. On the outside looking in it appeared that for the rest of last year and the first couple of months of 2016, Republicans largely viewed the New York Real Estate Magnet and former Reality TV Host as a fleeting nuisance, whose prospects were sharply delimited by a predefined ceiling of 25-30% of voters, and who would garner even fewer votes as the number of candidates winnowed from 17 down to a handful or less. All that sounded good. Then the field narrowed; currently it’s down to three. The movement, if you want to call it that, received a turbo jolt of energy following Mr. Trump’s wins in the March 15, 2016 Super Tuesday primaries, the most substantial of which was thrashing U.S. Senator Marco Rubio in Florida. That defeat instantly ended the Rubio Campaign.
At that point, the Establishment, unquestionably, had seen enough. Four weeks ago I framed it as not so much a failing of the Party to nurture, develop, and support better, smarter, more well-prepared candidates, but instead, a function of millions of voters expressing their preference for The Donald. It will be interesting to see, if the Never Trump movement is successful, and if it is, whether that outcome will create a schism between the will of the establishment and the desires of the Party faithful.
In that previous post I mentioned the Mitt Romney personal broadside initiative to derail Trump’s momentum. Since that time a number of Trump’s former rivals, including Carly Fiorina and Senator Lindsey Graham, have coalesced and joined forces with Ted Cruz, all in an effort to stop that inimitable force that Donald Trump has surprisingly proved to be. South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, who upon exiting the race himself, initially endorsed Jeb Bush, was so off put by both Mr. Trump and Senator Cruz that he likened choosing between the two as akin to a death sentence. In precise terms, he framed it thusly:
“It’s like being shot or poisoned. What does it really matter?”
This was in response to being asked which of the two he preferred. Arguably, this may have been just a dose of the seemingly casual folksy Palmetto State jargon that Graham is known for delivering. Perhaps it was, but he didn’t stop there. He went on to characterize Mr. Trump as “The most unprepared person I’ve ever met to be commander-in-chief,” and said of Senator Cruz, “He’s exhibited behavior in his time in the Senate that makes it impossible for me to believe that he could bring this country together.”
Of course in just a few weeks, Jeb Bush had himself suspended his campaign. That naturally meant Graham had to choose another would be standard-bearer. Ultimately, it appears he decided he’d rather be poisoned than shot.
As time marches on and the Primary Season advances, the saga continues. This week a number of Republicans, some of them key Party figures, are either contemplating skipping, or have already decided they are not attending the GOP Convention in Cleveland. In fact yesterday when former Florida Governor and 2016 GOP Presidential Candidate Jeb Bush was asked whether he’d attend, he told a CNN reporter “No.”
New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte is in the midst of a tough bid to secure a second term. She was asked if she would be in Cleveland. Her response, while not absolute, betrayed a clear lean. She said:
“Unlikely, I’ve got a lot of work to do in New Hampshire, I have my own re-election and I’m going to be focusing on my voters in New Hampshire.”
Here in The Old North State, another such dynamic has emerged. North Carolina Senator Richard Burr has made his priorities clear. Speaking about convention attendance, he had this to say:
“I’m up for re-election. I’m more valuable outside of Cleveland than inside of Cleveland.”
While Senators Ayotte and Burr are weighing the implications of challenging campaigns as they contemplate the Calculus of whether to attend the Convention, Jeb Bush is free of such concerns, and yet he seems to have already kicked the Cleveland Confab to the proverbial curb. In other words the Never Trump movement and the Cruz brand of inviolable conservatism are seen as equally uncool. Both those in tough swing state elections, as well as those who might actually believe there is still currency in the ideal of negotiation, collaboration, and bi-partisan governance are viewing the Party’s National Convention with a jaundiced eye.
By all accounts, there are GOPers among the highest rungs of the Party’s leadership encouraging rank-and-file members to stay the “aitch” away from Cleveland. You’d have thought the Secret Service hadn’t intervened and the Right Wing gun-lovers were actually going to be strapped up in that joint. One top level Party Official, speaking to CNN after having been granted anonymity, admitted that he has advised his colleagues to hold campaign rallies and town halls in their home states and districts during the convention in July. A senior Senate aide echoed that idea.
Skipping conventions is not unheard of, especially by moderates who wish to show some daylight between themselves and a nominee who might alienate their supporters at home. That’s fair, but it’s worth noting even some of the members of the edge leaning Tea Party plan to stay home in July. Representative Rick Mulvaney, a co-founder of the conservative House Freedom Caucus has said he will skip, and after discussing the matter with about 20 conservatives recently, about half agreed with him and plan to delete Cleveland from their respective itineraries. As he put it:
“Let the activists, let the people decide (who the nominee will be, rather than the politicians). I’ve decided not to go to Cleveland. I’m going to stay at home and work.”
One senior House Republican leadership aide also told CNN they are hearing that several members have drawn their own conclusions that it behooves them to stay home and tend to their own elections. That aide said explicitly:
“I think if you are in a competitive district that’s smart.”
Let’s face it, the GOP has a lot going on right now. On top of all the above, there has been an undercurrent of ambient noise surrounding a Draft Paul Ryan initiative. The rumblings became so significant that Representative Ryan, the Speaker of the House, attempted to quell them yesterday by giving his own version of the Lyndon Johnson recusal, “I will not seek, nor will I accept my Party’s nomination.” The Speaker said:
“Let me be clear, I do not want, nor will I accept, the nomination of our Party.”
It sounded good, even convincing unless you fell into one of two categories. One, those who desperately want the Speaker to play the role of White Knight and come to the rescue; the other, folks who remember when he said virtually the same thing about the Speakership. In other words, time will tell. There are advantages to not entering the fray before one has to do so.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve got my popcorn at hand. “Party On GOP: The Fun Is Just Beginning!”
I’m done; holla back!
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