It was only a matter of time. Republican kingpin Karl Rove has jumped head first into the 2016 presidential campaign. Rove has not endorsed any candidate – at least not publicly. But according to a November 28 post on Bloomberg Politics, he is pulling strings behind the scenes to raise money for Dr. Ben Carson, Donald Trump’s closest opponent. Rove may be late to the game, but he is finally in step with the rest of the Republican establishment: Donald Trump must be stopped.
Maybe wishful thinking explains why the GOP professional class took so long to figure out that Trump is for real. After all, the so-called mainstream media spent most of the past several months declaring time after time ‘the beginning of the end’ of the Trump campaign.
They said it on ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, FOX, in the Washington Post, the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. They predicted it almost every time Trump said something that offended one of the liberals’ pet special interests.
Chuck Todd, host of Meet the Press on NBC, spoke for all his media brethren on September 18 when he stated “I think this is the week we’re going to look back on and say maybe this was the beginning of the end of Trump ’16.” Don’t worry, Chuck, you’re not the only one eating crow right now.
Like the media, Republican officials wanted to believe that Trump would sooner or later talk himself out of serious consideration for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. But the numbers don’t lie.
Donald Trump has led the Real Clear Politics national polling average for over four consecutive months. Trump has double the support of his closest establishment-favored opponent, Senator Marco Rubio. Other Washington darlings like Jeb Bush are mired in single-digit numbers. Scratch the surface of the Real Clear Politics average and you will find what is giving professional Republicans a lot of sleepless nights.
In fact, poll after poll in 2015 has made clear grassroots Republican voters’ disgust with business as usual. They want an outsider with a fresh approach instead of the present cast of washed up governors and status quo senators. It’s no accident that Donald Trump, Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina -- the three candidates who have never held elective office -- have been at or near the top of the polls all year. You don’t need to be an overpaid Washington GOP consultant to see the writing on the wall.
Trump is leading the polls and leading in key early states like New Hampshire and Iowa because he is exactly what the establishment hates the most: a candidate with no patience for political correctness who is not beholden to the big money donors and GOP lobbyists who prowl Washington’s corridors of power. Professional Republicans may not understand Donald Trump, but they are catching on to the threat he represents.
Less than 60 days before the Iowa caucuses, the GOP consultant class has finally realized that wishful thinking is not much of a strategy. But they don’t all agree on the best way to eliminate the Trump threat.
For some --- like the prominent (and unnamed) U.S. senator who told the New York Times on December 1 that “There is not a bit of confusion among our members that if Donald Trump is the nominee, we’re going to get wiped out” --- scare tactics are the way to go. Even the National Republican Senatorial Committee is warning its incumbents to avoid any links to Trump.
Washington Republicans are at least smart enough to realize that any ‘Stop Trump’ effort would play right into Trump’s hands and make him even more popular with independent voters. But don’t expect the stalemate to last much longer.
The Wall Street Journal report of November 20 that well-known GOP operative Liz Mair was planning a ‘guerilla campaign’ against Trump was the clearest signal yet that establishment Republicans will no longer keep their powder dry.
A memo from Mair’s organization Trump Card LLC stated that “in the absence of our efforts, Trump is exceedingly unlikely to implode or be forced out of the race.”
The super PAC New Day for America affiliated with establishment candidate John Kasich is planning to invest $2.5 million in New Hampshire alone in an “independent” ad campaign aimed at damaging Trump.
A spokesman for New Day for America promised, “We will be the tip of the spear against Trump.” The group took off the gloves last month with a TV ad that compares Trump to Obama and mocks the inexperience of the Republican front-runner. Maybe someone should tell Governor Kasich that a lack of Washington experience is why Mr. Trump is so popular right now.
Republican elites are so desperate to upend Trump that they have even mapped out a strategy to draft failed 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney as a candidate in 2016. In this scenario, Romney would enter the campaign sometime next spring, compete for delegates and come out on top of a brokered Republican party nominating convention. The Romney “bandwagon” has so far failed to gain traction, but that’s almost beside the point. Frantic Republicans are so eager to stop Trump’s momentum that they are ready to try just about anything.
Professional Republicans are waking up to the threat of Donald Trump’s campaign. But it might be too late. They know that even if Trump doesn’t win the GOP nomination, he is speeding up the process of ripping party control out of their hands. It’s the ‘beginning of the end’ all right --- the end of an era when Republicans-In-Name-Only (RINOs) called the tune and expected the rest of us to dance to it. The Republican elite is right to panic after all.