Donald Trump’s nomination looks increasingly inevitable, which pains his detractors within the GOP.
A new CNN/ORC national poll released Monday showed Trump with 49 percent support among Republican and Republican-leaning voters, compared with 16 percent for Marco Rubio and 15 percent for Ted Cruz.
And Trump leads in nearly every state scheduled to have a primary or caucus on Super Tuesday.
But what about Republicans who don’t support him? Will they vote for him if he wins the nomination?
It doesn’t sound like it. Forty-eight percent of those polled said they were unlikely to support him as the nominee, including 35 percent who said they definitely would not give him their vote.
Count Elise Jordan as a Republican who is not a fan of her party’s front-runner.
“Taking our party back invigorates me — but the bully we’re handing it to petrifies me,” Jordan, an adviser for Sen. Rand Paul’s presidential campaign, writes in Time.
The last few days have been a mixed bag of endorsements and knock-downs for Trump. After saying mean things about Trump during his own bid for the White House, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie threw his support behind the reality TV star on Friday.
Republican Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a fan of Trump’s plan to make Mexico pay for a border wall, endorsed Trump on Monday.
On the other hand, Trump got punked over the weekend by a fake Twitter account set up by Gawker and retweeted a quote from Italian fascist Benito Mussolini posted there: “It is better to live one day as a lion than 100 years as a sheep.”
After getting called out, Trump told “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd: “Look, Mussolini was Mussolini. It’s OK to — it’s a very good quote, it’s a very interesting quote, and I know it. I saw it. I saw what — and I know who said it. But what difference does it make whether it’s Mussolini or somebody else? It’s certainly a very interesting quote.”
Also over the weekend a Twitter campaign that went viral, #NeverTrump, drew support from Democrats and Republicans alike.
It is the unifying movement conservatives needed, writes Republican strategist Rory Cooper in Medium.
Trump has seized on discord within the party “and promised to make everything great again. But what he created was an existential threat to the very foundation of what unites all Republicans and conservatives,” Cooper writes.
“This bedrock of principles became a tool of angry populism rather than a beacon of reform-minded conservatism.”
GOP heads figuratively exploded on Sunday when, in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, Trump repeatedly declined to repudiate an endorsement from David Duke, a former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.
The Washington Post reported that the misstep was so egregious that “many party leaders vowed never to back the billionaire and openly questioned whether the GOP could come together this election year.”
On Monday Trump blamed his equivocating on technical difficulties.
“I was sitting in a house in Florida, with a bad earpiece,” Trump told NBC’s “Today” on Monday. “I could hardly hear what he’s saying. I hear various groups. I don’t mind disavowing anyone. I disavowed Duke the day before at a major conference.”
But the damage was done. Joe Scarborough, co-host of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” suggested that the incident could disqualify Trump from the race.
“It’s breathtaking. That is disqualifying right there,” Scarborough said Monday. “To say you don’t know about the Ku Klux Klan? You don’t know about David Duke?
“Is he really so stupid that he thinks Southerners aren’t offended by the Ku Klux Klan and David Duke? Is he really so ignorant of Southern voters that he thinks this is the way to their heart? To go neutral, to play Switzerland when you’re talking about the Klan?”
Yet Trump has survived multiple missteps that would have mortally wounded other campaigns. And deep-pocketed GOP donors who, according to Politico, “are appalled by the billionaire real estate showman’s campaign,” have nonetheless held back their fire as well as funding for dump-Trump efforts.
One reason: Republican operatives told Politico that it would take an eight-figure advertising campaign to make a dent in Trump’s “surprisingly durable popularity.”
They fear they can’t stop his momentum and, frankly, that Trump will fire back.
When it became public a few days ago that Marlene Ricketts, wife of major Republican donor and TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts, had given $3 million to an anti-Trump super PAC, Trump threatened the prominent Nebraska family on Twitter.
“In her view, Donald Trump has not been a consistent conservative and therefore would be unpredictable as our party leader,” a Ricketts family adviser told The New York Times.
Trump responded with this:
Over the weekend The New York Times outlined the Republican Party’s “desperate mission” to stop Trump. It described Karl Rove telling Republican governors and donors at a luncheon in Washington on Feb. 19 that Trump’s nomination would be catastrophic for the party.
It’s not too late to stop him, Rove told them.
Paul R. LePage, Republican governor of Maine, urged his fellow GOP governors to draft an open letter “to the people” disavowing Trump and his divisive politics. The suggestion got nowhere.
Six days later, LePage, known as a loose cannon, endorsed Trump.
Late Sunday, Nebraska’s Ben Sasse became the first sitting Republican senator to say explicitly that he would not back Trump if he wins the nomination.
In a series of tweets and a lengthy, passionate essay on Facebook that’s been shared nearly 11,000 times, Sasse said that if Trump becomes the Republican nominee he’ll “look for some third candidate — a conservative option, a constitutionalist.”
“A presidential candidate who ... refuses to condemn the KKK cannot lead a conservative movement in America.”
Sasse might be onto something with his notion of conservatives mounting a third-party effort.
“A third-party run does not require unanimity among Trump skeptics. It only requires enough conservatives to launch a campaign,” noted Conor Friedersdorf of the Atlantic.
“And it seems to me that there are a lot of conservatives who earnestly believe that they have no reason to support a Republican Party headed by Trump. In fact, they’ve spent the last eight years convincing themselves that rebelling against non-conservative Republican candidates is among the noblest of fights.”
Some Republicans are ready to write in someone else’s — anyone else’s — name on the ballot in November if Trump is their party’s nominee. One veteran GOP operative said he would do it to have “a clear conscience.”
A Seattle weekly alternative, The Stranger, talked to Washington State Republicans after caucuses there last weekend.
One Republican mom of four said Trump is “very emotional” and not good presidential material.
Hank Myers, a Republican city council member from Redmond City, Wash., said, “Trump, to me, is a clown.”
He joked that if Trump gets the GOP nomination, “fortunately, we’re only 150 miles from Canada.”