Jonathan V. Last, of the the Weekly Standard, (via email) observes that we are in a no-win situation here. Whatever happens, Donald Trump is going to split the GOP vote.
With Easter break behind us and a pause before the vote in Wisconsin next week, letâ€™s have a deep breath and take stock of where we stand now in the GOP primary.
Itâ€™s now abundantly clear that the Republican party is broken. Thereâ€™s no putting Humpty Dumpty back together again this cycle-whether the nominee is Trump, Cruz, or [insert White Knight]. The idea that Republicans could rally to Trump in a meaningful way-even if party elites cave in-has basically been invalidated by the exit polling coming out of Florida, Ohio, Utah, and pretty much everywhere else. A giant chunk of Republican voters isnâ€™t going to come to him.
Now maybe itâ€™s not the 40 percent or so who tell pollsters they wonâ€™t vote Trump if heâ€™s the nominee. Iâ€™m sure some of those people feel that way because theyâ€™re in the heat of a primary fight and will reconsider when facing the prospect of a Clinton administration. But some wonâ€™t, because Trump isnâ€™t just distasteful. You could argue that the potential downside of Trump (expansive authoritarianism unmoored from ideological commitments) is worse than the potential of downside of Clinton (lawless progressivism run amok) [Good summations –JDZ]. For some GOP voters, Clinton could be the lesser of two evils.
But even if half the Republicans who now say they wonâ€™t vote for Trump stay that way, there are a bunch of knifeâ€™s-edge states that come off the board. So long Florida. So long Ohio. So long North Carolina and Colorado. My colleague Jay Cost thinks that in a Trump vs. Clinton matchup, Clinton starts with a floor of 400 Electoral votes. He may be right. (By the by, Trump supporters generally place a great deal of faith in poll numbers when they show their guy doing well against Bush, Rubio, Cruz, et al. Yet somehow they totally discount the mountain of polls showing Trump being the weakest Republican-by far- against Clinton. Weird.)
On the other hand, Trump can honestly claim to have brought a bunch of new voters into the primary process. And where are these people going to go if Trump isnâ€™t the nominee? Who knows. But it probably wonâ€™t be pretty. Republicans have lost the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections, so they clearly needed a revamped coalition. Last summer, it looked like Trumpism might be an answer to this problem. Now that Trumpism has devolved from being a semi-coherent nationalist worldview into an ad hoc series of contradictory positions held together by an authoritarian cult of personality â€¦ not so much.
Which leaves us where, exactly?
Either Trump gets to 1,237 delegates and wins the nomination outright, or he doesnâ€™t and someone else gets nominated after a floor fight at the Republican national convention.
But letâ€™s be clear: Neither or these options is ‘good’ and neither is likely to result in a Republican victory in November. So when someone says, Yeah, but if you donâ€™t do X, youâ€™re giving aid and comfort to Hillary Clinton, just remember: Thereâ€™s a good chance that ship has already sailed. The priorities for picking the Republican nominee are a lot more near-term right now.â€