As some party insiders who oppose him are plotting how to take him down, Donald Trump met with prominent Republicans in Washington on Monday in hopes of shoring up support before a nominee is determined.
The meeting came just as the diverse coalition of Republicans who oppose Trump — everyone from super PAC ad-makers to grassroots activists — are preparing an all-out effort to prevent the front-runner from winning anything. Also posted near the Trump meeting on Monday: A representative with the group Never Trump PAC.
None of the Republican leadership in Congress were at the meeting with Trump (nor were they invited, NBC News reported), but other Congressional members, including Sens. Jeff Session and Tom Cotton, as well as Reps. Renee Ellmers, Tom Reed, and Scott DesJarlais, attended the gathering at Jones Day, a law firm near Capitol Hill. Additional influential Republicans, like former House speaker and 2012 candidate Newt Gingrich, also attended.
“It’s too late for Trump to make peace with the people who care about the things we care about,” said Conservatives Against Trump spokesman Quin Hillyer on Monday morning. Hillyer's organization is one of the far-right conservative groups that say Trump's platform isn't consistent with their values.
“Conservatives should take note of who enters and exits 51 Louisiana Avenue today and hold them accountable,” another member of that group, Erick Erickson said in a blog post today.
Efforts to defeat the party's unexpected front-runner heated up in earnest last week, with groups and power players working together to try to deny Trump a majority of delegates so that Republicans have the opportunity to nominate somebody else.
In at least two formal meetings and other talks last week with strategists, elected officials, and grassroots activists, anti-Trump forces agreed that denying him the delegates and forcing a contested convention was the only viable option and brainstormed ways to bring the party into — and safely out of — such a convention.
One anti-Trump PAC, Make America Awesome Again, surveyed 150 of its most active supporters earlier this month and found that a full 77 percent of those surveyed support using a contested convention to defeat Trump.
The movement largely identifies with the slogan #NeverTrump, and 55 percent of respondents in the PAC's survey said they’d vote for an independent if Trump becomes the Republican nominee. A quarter said they’d even vote for Hillary Clinton, according to data provided exclusively to MSNBC.
Many strategists and activists alike said that if the contested convention effort fails and Trump secures the party’s nomination, they’d likely work to run a third-party candidate to give conservative voters an alternative.
Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry's name has been circulated as one such possibility, with his son going as far to suggest in a tweet a Gov. Jeb Bush and Perry ticket. Perry has endorsed Cruz and spent significant time on the campaign trail with him, staying visible and active.
Make America Awesome Again's survey found Perry and House Speaker Paul Ryan — who has dismissed efforts to draft him to run — to be the two most popular choices for an independent candidate. Coming in second and third respectively, were Gov. Scott Walker and 2012 nominee Mitt Romney.
Mair responded gleefully to reports that just a handful of Republicans had attended the meeting — though an underground parking garage made it difficult to actually account for every person who attended the meeting.
“It’s gratifying to know that only a handful of sitting Republican Members of Congress bothered to attend Donald Trump’s ‘sell-your-soul’ session at Jones Day today," she wrote in a blistering statement. "It’s often hard to say much good about Republicans in Congress as a category, but the fact that they overwhelmingly took a pass on this particular event shows they have some brain cells, balls and principles left. It looks like we may need to send Donald Trump another jumbo box of Kleenex to help as he cries this one out."