Most likely a futile, hopeless endeavor; the specter of a party's congressional wing having to frantically distance itself from its rogue presidential nominee is understandably rare and equally as frightfully difficult, which is another of the reasons Bill Clinton manipulated Donald Trump into cannon-balling into the Republican presidential race to begin with. But under the circumstances, there's little else he and his caucus can do. With a Democrat soon to be heading the party, surviving conservatives will boycott the election on the presidential level (God knows I will), and McConnell (and Paul Ryan) have to try and provide motivation for those betrayed conservative voters to turn out for the congressional and other down-ballot races. Otherwise the GOP will get slaughtered from top to bottom, and the cataclysm will be far worse than it was eight years ago, when at least our party was still conservatism's home.
Which it will effectively no longer be, perhaps as soon as seventy-two hours from now:
While still hopeful that Mr. Rubio might prevail, Mr. McConnell has begun preparing senators for the prospect of a Trump nomination, assuring them that, if it threatened to harm them in the general election, they could run negative ads about Mr. Trump to create space between him and Republican senators seeking re-election. Mr. McConnell has raised the possibility of treating Mr. Trump’s loss as a given and describing a Republican Senate to voters as a necessary check on a President [Bernie Sanders], according to senators at the lunches.
He has reminded colleagues of his own 1996 re-election campaign, when he won comfortably amid Bill Clinton’s easy re-election. Of Mr. Trump, Mr. McConnell has said, “We’ll drop him like a hot rock,” according to his colleagues.
With Trump as the "GOP" nominee, in other words, the presidency is lost to conservatives, no matter who ended up on in the winner's circle this November. So conservatives in Congress have to play defense against both Democrats and Trumplicans. That's now the insane situation the Right faces.
You'll note I said "conservatives" and not "Republicans". That is the distinction that Allahpundit makes this afternoon, whether or not he realizes it:
[H]ow would an incumbent GOP senator whose seat is up benefit from alienating Trump fans by running attack ads against the party’s own nominee? That’s insane. The whole trick in surviving this fall is figuring out a way to get Trumpists and conservatives voting for you. Trump can take care of the former; he’ll call on his supporters to elect a Republican Senate, I hope, on the theory that his own party will be more likely to rubber-stamp his policies than Democrats will. But if a given senator turns on him, those Trumpist votes are lost. Meanwhile, if you hug him too closely then conservatives angry at Trump’s takeover may decide to boycott that Senate race to punish the “traitor.” The way to handle this, I would think, if you’re a senator running for reelection is to endorse Trump, pay lip service to his populist appeal as needed, but reiterate at every opportunity that you’re a conservative. When Trump says something damaging, politely disagree as needed. You may lose anyway but you’ve got a better chance trying to bring the two wings of the party together behind you then by declaring war on Trump. [emphasis added]
1) Running attack ads against Trump would not be insane if you're a conservative, because Trump is most certainly not one. Principle over politics - right, Tea Partiers? - whereas if you're the caricature of GOP "establishmentarian" of Tea Party depiction, you will mercenarily betray your conservative principles and say and do anything you have to do to try and survive - which is to say, bow the knee to the New York liberal. Either way, you incense a significant voter segment. Which is why you're certain to lose in any State or district that has even the slightest tinge of "purple" to it. As President Abraham Lincoln, and before him Jesus Christ, once said, "a house divided against itself cannot stand".
2) AP knows as well as you and I do that Trump will not campaign for anybody else but himself. He doesn't give a damn who controls Congress, because he's a "deal-maker," remember? He'll endorse only those, in either party, who sell out to him. Period.
There is, in short, no way to finesse this divide. You can stand for conservatism or you can drink the Trump-Aid; you cannot do both. And without doing both, if you're a Republican senator or representative in what would otherwise have been a competitive race, you cannot win reelection.
It's a lot like the upcoming third Captain America movie....
....except in this case it's a three-way civil war - and will likely end up just as tragically....unless Trumplicanism really has eclipsed conservatism - and constitutionalism - which would mean that the "Right" in America will have become akin to the "Right" in Europe - in other words, just another branch of the Left.
If the American Republic didn't perish with Barack Obama's re-election three and a quarter years ago, it's without a doubt taking its last agonal breaths now.
~ ~ ~
But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age....
- Winston Churchill