Broadly speaking, there are two ways to look at the divisions within the Republican Party about Donald Trump’s looming presidential nomination. The first way, embraced by much of the political establishment, is that the GOP is divided in ways unseen in generations. For the first time in modern history, the party has a nominee facing public, unyielding opposition from members of Congress, governors, and former nominees. In 2016, the argument goes, Republicans find themselves with a house divided.
The other way is to note just how small and inconsequential the “Never Trump” faction really is. Sure, there are some notable GOP officials who cannot bring themselves to back the party’s inevitable nominee, but three senators, Mitt Romney, and the Bush family do not a civil war make.
Both theses have some merit, but the facts favor the latter. In modern history, Republicans have never seen the kind of divisions they’re experiencing now, but as it turns out, that’s not saying much – the GOP generally excels in party discipline, so almost any number of renegades would appear dramatic – and the size of the GOP’s anti-Trump contingent is both small and stagnant.
And yet, the Washington Post reported over the weekend that these forces aren’t yet ready to throw in the towel.
These GOP figures are commissioning private polling, lining up major funding sources and courting potential contenders, according to interviews with more than a dozen Republicans involved in the discussions. […]Those involved concede that an independent campaign at this late stage is probably futile, and they think they have only a couple of weeks to launch a credible bid. But these Republicans – including commentators William Kristol and Erick Erickson and strategists Mike Murphy, Stuart Stevens and Rick Wilson – are so repulsed by the prospect of Trump as commander in chief that they are desperate to take action.
Romney is reportedly playing a direct role in the endeavor, and the Post added that the 2012 Republican nominee has personally reached out to Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) and Ohio Gov. John Kasich about possible candidacies.
It’s worth appreciating why this effort is doomed.
Clearly, there are logistical problems that these anti-Trump Republicans have no idea how to overcome, including ballot-access deadlines that have already come and gone in some states. There’s also the challenge of raising an enormous amount of money from skeptical donors, many of whom have already made other 2016 investment plans.
They also can’t find a candidate.
But even putting these relevant details aside, what anti-Trump Republicans need to realize is that they’re only talking to each other, and the feedback loop has distorted their perspective. While Kristol, Erickson, and Romney look for a Republican candidate to run against the Republican candidate, the party continues to unify around Trump. The most notable holdout is House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) – who’s already spent months vowing to support his party’s nominee, no matter what.
Meanwhile, public-opinion polls continue to show exactly what we’d expect them to show: now that the party’s nominating process has wrapped up, Republican voters are ready to back the Republican nominee.
“Never Trump” folks may believe Republican voters will hear from Romney, Lindsey Graham, and the Bush family, realize the error of their ways, and cast a ballot for a third-party conservative. But let’s not forget, if these GOP leaders had any real influence over rank-and-file Republican voters, Trump never would have done so well in the primaries in the first place.
When Ted Cruz and John Kasich first exited the stage, and observers took stock of the anti-Trump Republican coalition, there were some notable figures eager to oppose the presumptive nominee. Since that time, however, the contingent hasn’t grown at all. On the contrary, the exact opposite has happened.
The Post’s report added, “One related objective is to prevent both Clinton and Trump from clinching a majority in the electoral college and thus throwing the presidential election to the House of Representatives, under the provision of the 12th Amendment of the Constitution. This scenario played out in 1824, when Andrew Jackson won a plurality of electoral and popular votes but was defeated in the House by John Quincy Adams.”
It’s a creative approach to a problem Republicans don’t know how to solve, but a closer look suggests there’s simply no way this would work.