Since I’m on the go today, I recommend that you read this short piece by conservative commentator Fred Barnes. It’s abundantly clear that he and his fellow Republicans don’t have a clue what to do about The Donald.
Barnes is a good barometer of GOP establishment thinking. Like his brethren, he’s freaked to the max that Trump will park his ego in a self-financed third party, where he would split the ’16 Republican vote and grease Hillary’s path to power. Barnes says that scenario would be “devastating,” and cites new stats: “The (Washington)Post poll found this in a three-candidate race in the general election: Hillary Clinton 46 percent, Jeb Bush 30 percent, Trump 20 percent. Trump took more votes from Bush than from Clinton. One on one, Clinton beat Bush 50-44 percent.”
Therefore, Barnes says, Republicans need to somehow ensure that Trump doesn’t pull a Ross Perot; as you history junkies well know, Perot was the ’92 third-party candidate who arguably helped elect Bill Clinton. And a Perot-style scenario isn’t as unlikely as it seems, because Team Trump is reportedly talking to Perot veterans about the logistics of a third-party bid.
So Barnes seems to be saying that if Republicans are nice to Trump, he’ll have no reason to bolt: “Calling on Trump to drop out of the race, or insisting he is unqualified to be president because of his harsh language zinging John McCain and immigrants from Mexico, isn’t working and probably never will….Republicans need to think about who backs Trump at the moment. It’s a big chunk of the GOP base, at least the anti-immigrant wing. If Republicans lose these folks next year (because Trump is on the ballot as a third candidate), they’re doomed.”
In the end, Barnes concludes: “So Republicans have a difficult task. They must deal wisely with Trump with an overriding goal of keeping him from becoming a third party or independent candidate next year.”
Problem is, Barnes never really defines the word wisely. Is he saying that Trump’s 15 Republican rivals – woops, make it 16 rivals – should simply stay mum and let Trump wreck the party brand, all because they shouldn’t risk ticking him off? Is that really so wise, given the fact that silence makes them look like complicit wimps?
Even though Trump is currently the first choice of Republican voters (his slice of The Base, in a crowded field), he nevertheless has high negatives. In a new poll, 30 percent of Republicans say there’s “no way” they’d ever vote for him. That’s tops in the crowded field. Barnes says the candidates shouldn’t tick off Trump, lest he morph into Ross Perot…but if they “wisely” let him run rampant, a lot of Republicans (not to mention swing voters) could get ticked off at the party.
Quite the dilemma, and we’re only one week away from the first debate. Is it here yet?