The Washington Post reported late last week that there is “growing acceptance among Republicans, including the Washington and financial elite, that Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are the two candidates most likely to become the party’s nominee.” And as a result, GOP “power brokers and financiers are now trying to cozy up to Trump in various ways.”
Spencer Zwick, the national finance chairman for Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign, told the Post, “A lot of donors are trying to figure their way into Trump’s orbit. There is a growing feeling among many that he may be the guy, so people are certainly seeing if they can find a home over there.”
The Hill reported this morning on a similar dynamic unfolding within the GOP donor class, which is “quietly coming around to the idea” of Trump as the Republican nominee.
While many major Republican donors still cannot abide the idea of Trump as their party’s 2016 standard-bearer – and some remain flat-out in denial about the strength of his candidacy – interviews with GOP business owners and CEOs in six states suggest shifting attitudes toward the controversial billionaire.
The article quoted a California-based hotel developer saying, “A lot of my friends have really come around and are now saying they are going to support him. These are corporate leaders.”
The CEO of a Connecticut-based security company added, “Early on, many of my friends and associates, who have supported establishment candidates in the past, spoke of Trump as ‘a joke.’ They have recently changed their tune.”
Obviously we’re dealing with anecdotal evidence with reports like these, but the sheer volume of the evidence is getting harder to ignore. New York’s Jon Chait highlighted related data points this morning showing “signs of a party reconciling itself to Trump.”
The Wall Street Journal editorial page, which once savaged him mercilessly as a mobbed-up, un-conservative demagogue, has changed its tune (“Mr. Trump is a better politician than we ever imagined, and he is becoming a better candidate.”). Right-wing commentator Erick Erickson laments that many conservatives who don’t like Trump “don’t want to burn bridges by going after him”; Rupert Murdoch has gone from calling him an embarrassment to praising Trump’s alleged crossover appeal. George W. Bush’s press secretary Ari Fleischer, who lacerated Trump as toxic, now calls him the likely nominee, as does former party chairman Michael Steele.
We talked on Friday about some related points. National Review’s Rich Lowry noted this week, for example, that from his conversations, the GOP establishment’s mood on Trump is “moving from fear/loathing to resignation/rationalization.” (MSNBC’s Chris Hayes added soon after that he’s heard the same thing.)
Slate’s Jamelle Bouie added, “[I]nstead of brushing Trump aside, Republican elites are learning to love the Donald and accept him as a potential nominee, or at least a candidate they can work with.”
This isn’t to say that Trump is some kind of lock. He’s not, and assumptions can change quickly once voters actually start showing up and registering their preferences.
But there’s no denying the fact that the tenor and direction of the Republican conversation is fundamentally different than it was just a couple of months ago. It’s tempting to think, at this stage, the GOP donor class and its allies would be scrambling, in hair-on-fire desperation, to bolster a rival like Ted Cruz in order to prevent Trump’s success.
There’s nothing to suggest anything close to this is actually happening.