I have no illusions about the centrifugal force of partisan tribalism. Many former Republican presidential candidates and pols and party leaders who created every appearance of knowing what a party-and movement-devastating menace the New York liberal conman was and is over the past year are now having the chickens of their earlier party loyalty pledges they signed, never believing that Trump would actually win the nomination, come home to roost. I can understand the position they're in to a certain extent. Reince Priebus, for example, tweeted this out last night:
I don't know if Priebus really believes these words like a soulless party hack automaton or if he doesn't. But as the chairman of the Republican National Committee, his role doesn't give him much, if any, choice in the matter. As titular head of the party, he's got to promote its nominee, whether he likes him or not. So he's doing what that role requires of him. Consequently, I don't hold this heresy against him with anywhere near the vehemence of other #NeverTrumpers. RNC chairmanship has simply become one more example of, ironically, a job I'm glad I don't have.
Until Trump fires his ass, anyway. That should make for an interesting press conference.
Ranks-closing after the primaries is a quadrennial ritual. What makes this year different is that there hasn't been anything remotely like this long, bitter, angry, and divisive a primary campaign in forty years. Typically (1) Republicans nominate an actual Republican as their presidential standard-bearer, and (2) that nominee is usually settled upon by the ides of March at the latest. He usually has flaws and shortcomings, but they always pale in comparison to those of the presumptive Democrat nominee, and party unity does not present any insuperable problem.
This year is the exception.
This year forty percent of the "Republican" electorate did not choose an imperfect conservative, a candidate with a few ideological/policy warts that could be ignored in the face of....this....
....but a man who is her mirror image in ideology, character, ego, naked ambition, corruption, and temperament. Shall we count the ways yet again? Never mind, I already did a month ago. Suffice it to say, the "great deals" he would make in the White House would not be with the Republicans he's now conquered, but with the Democrats he's been buying for years.
A vote for Donald Trump and a vote for Hillary Clinton are interchangeable. Supporting either is supporting both. I want neither, and I shall vote for neither. I could have rallied around literally any of the other sixteen candidates in the GOP field - even John Kasich or Lindsey Graham - because if nothing else, they really are Republicans. But Donald Trump is not. He is beyond the pale. And I will not forfeit my constitutional conservative principles to that doomed expedition.
And believe me, given the adjoining Priebus-esque post the Director [has waiting in the out-box], I am excruciatingly aware of the irony. It is to weep, really - and not for myself.
But again, I get the ranks-closing impulse. I don't know how many #NeverTrumpers will stick to their principles for the distance. Probably many, or even most, won't, especially if the general campaign turns out to be closer, and therefore more heated, than every indicator leads the rational observer to believe. If it proves to be the 1996-esque runaway laugher that is far more likely, the unity compulsion will be correspondingly diminished, and #NeverTrump will be driving Trumpies nuts with our "WE TOLD YOU SO!" taunts. Because as I have been warning for months, I'm never going to let any of you forget what you've done to the GOP and the conservative movement.
Any that do drift away, that's their choice. A foolish one, but one to which they will be entitled - and for which they will, ultimately, have to answer. I will not, because my principles are plainly and simply not that elastic, and are not disposable.
One Republican pol who wasn't kidding about #NeverTrump - at least for now - is Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse, whose principled stance will now doubtless come under withering fire:
As Allahpundit leded this morning, "I remember grassroots conservatives celebrating when he was elected two years ago because it meant adding another Republican to the Senate who takes his principles seriously. Now here’s Sasse last night reiterating that he takes his principles seriously enough not to vote for a big-government liberal just because he’s the party’s nominee and he’ll be excoriated for it. Oh well. The principled choice is rarely the popular one."
Indeed. Hence the amazing irony of "FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT!"ing for the right principles now having fallen into sudden and baying disrepute. Sorry we'll miss you at the party's/movement's wake, Trumpers.
AP has a pretty good preview of how the #NeverTrump effect will manifest itself this fall:
[R]elatively few people on the right have categorically ruled out voting for Trump now, which I think is the hallmark of #NeverTrump. There’s a much larger cohort of many millions of Republicans who may strongly dislike him, are inclined to vote against him, but are going to give him a hard look anyway because Hillary is terrible. Call them #SkepticalOfTrump.
In which category the Director has held himself out as residing up to now, but appears to be going by the boards toward a Full Frontal Trump turn.
Many within that group will end up deciding against him, but when they do, it won’t be because he was anathema to them on principle, as he is for Sasse. It’ll be because he didn’t seal the deal with them in the general election. I mention this distinction because I see Trumpers already grasping for scapegoats, as nationalists always do, for why he’s polling so badly against Hillary and settling on the theory that #NeverTrumpers are sinking him. Why #NeverTrumpers should be blamed for Trumpers nominating a guy whose favorable rating is in the toilet isn’t clear to me, but it’s beside the point. The point is that true #NeverTrumpers like Sasse are a rounding error in a number as large as the general electorate. Trump will have an opportunity to unite the party by winning over #SkepticalOfTrump. If he fails, that’s on him — especially if he’s going around telling reporters he doesn’t want or need every Republican to support him. If you’re going to kiss off opponents rather than try to win them over, don’t blame them later when they don’t show up. [emphases added]
Speaking of which....:
“I am confident that I can unite much of [the GOP base]. Some of it, I don’t want. There were statements made about me that those people can go away and maybe come back in eight years after we serve two terms,” [Trump] told Today a day following his crushing victory over his main rival, Ted Cruz, in the Indiana primary. [emphases added]
“Honestly, there are some people I really don’t want. I don’t think it’s necessary. People would be voting for me, they’re not voting for the party,” he said. [emphasis added]
Remember yesterday when Ted Cruz engaged that Trumpligan in that rope line in Evansville, Indiana patiently explaining that he was talking to him because he was seeking to be the president of those who didn't support him as well? Yeah, you won't be seeing Trump doing any of that. Which may be a rare instance of honesty from the millionaire slumlord - why waste time trying to win over people whom you've irretrievably (and purposely) alienated? - but given his infamous disinclination to delve into the details of anything, how will he know how many of those who aren't slavishly genuflecting before his YUUUUGE throne are #NeverTrump and how many are #SkepticalOfTrump? Shouldn't that matter to him, given the giant hole in which he's starting the general campaign? Is it a matter of his ego barring him from doing anything that could be perceived as "desperate," and therefore "weak"? Or is he simply being Freudianly honest about at least one of the purposes of his campaign being to shatter and scatter and shrink the Republican Party back to its pro-Goldwater irrelevance? Because it sure doesn't seem like party unity is much of a priority to him. Or perhaps it's his reflexive vindictiveness and legendary grudge-holding propensity and compulsion to scapegoat his victims for what he himself is responsible.
Anyway, here's the hole:
The reality of Donald Trump as the Republican presidential nominee may be setting in with the GOP establishment, but Texas Senator Ted Cruz’s supporters won’t happily back Trump against presumptive Democrat nominee Hillary Clinton, according to recent Morning Consult polling.
Sixty-two percent of Cruz supporters say they would support Trump against [Mrs.] Clinton, while 13% say they would back [Mrs.] Clinton. Twenty-five percent of Cruz supporters said they don’t know or had no opinion on whom they’d support in a [Rodham]-Trump matchup.
That translates out to between 75% and 80% GOP support for Trump, which is way below what Mitt Romney managed four years ago. But it may be significantly less than that:
Try barely more than half GOP support and then see how that translates to the general election, given that seventy percent of the larger general electorate hates his gilded guts.
The first percentage range is way more likely, but given how far underwater Trump is already, can he really afford to let his narcissism make him butthurtedly choosy at all? A little humility, even faking same, would do him a world of good right now.
I know, I know....
It'll be educational, if nothing else. Or would be, if Trumpholds showed any inclination to learn the unpleasant lessons to come.
Incidentally, yes, I have noticed the Rasmussen poll showing Trump slightly ahead of Mrs. Clinton (41%-39%). Why have I not mentioned it? Because it is what is known in the polling game as an "outlier," a result that isn't corroborated by any other survey. I learned a long time ago not to tie my hopes and dreams to a single poll, because the polling gold standard is always changing. Back in the mid to late nineties, James Zogby was the best in the business, bullseye-ing Bill Clinton's 49%-41% victory over Bob Dole when the major media surveys had Sick Willie winning by twice that margin. Then, after 9/11, his Arabism pushed him into the tank for the Global Jihad and his accuracy went south. He was replaced by the aforementioned Rasmussen Reports, who called the 2004 and 2008 presidential elections in near-hole-in-one fashion. But RR's streak ended in the 2012 cycle, where Nate Silver's New York Times-based fiftythirtyeight.com took the crown.
Here's what else I learned about Rasmussen Reports this morning: Its namesake left that organization three years ago:
A minor pollster before 2000, Rasmussen was reinvented by Scott Rasmussen in the mid-2000s into one of the giants of the polling business, with ubiquitous high-volume polling that included one of the most influential daily tracking polls, while Rasmussen himself became a prominent pundit. For the most part, during the Bush years, Rasmussen had a solid record as a pollster, and while it had some embarrassing misses in 2010 (usually due to over-projecting Republican candidates), it was still a reputable pollster. In 2012, I still relied on Rasmussen’s national party-ID survey, which had a strong predictive track record over the prior decade. But it failed spectacularly, as did many of Rasmussen’s polls, in 2012: the party ID tracker was projecting the most Republican general electorate since the Coolidge years, and we got precisely the opposite. So far as I can tell, the party ID poll was discontinued immediately after the 2012 election.
Rasmussen has stayed in the political polling business since then, but greatly diminished, as Scott Rasmussen himself left the company in mid-2013, and it has refocused more on making money from non-political polls. His departure also ended the firm’s GOP tilt, or at least induced an over-correction; for much of 2014, for example, Rasmussen’s job-approval poll showed Barack Obama to be a lot more popular than any other pollster, a finding totally inconsistent with the 2014 election results. On the whole, my postmortem of the 2014 Senate polls found Rasmussen’s polling to be a mixed bag.
But now, in the past few weeks, Rasmussen has emerged as the lone pollster showing Trump competitive nationally with Hillary Clinton. [emphasis added]
I have been told by more than one Trumpalumper that all polls showing their hero getting destroyed are "wrong" and "biased" because pollsters can "twist the questions to produce any results they want". There is some truth to that latter assertion, although I'm guessing that they're citing this lone outlying Rasmussen result as being the gilded "SEE! SEE!" gospel, even though the same assertion applies to it as well. And we have the entirely plausible reason for it already before us: making money. Dan McLaughlin makes a very valid point that other pollsters, for similarly pecuniary reasons, may torture their results to show a closer Trump-Hillary race than really exists simply to bolster their bottom line, Donald Trump being an ongoing ratings gold mine, for whatever twisted reason. They want Hillary to win, of course, but they have their own cash flows to maximize, after all.
But then they don't have to show Trump leading, which would combust all their credibility when he goes down in landslide flames on November 8th (massively adjusting their final calls to reality would be almost as discrediting). They just have to show The Donald within close enough striking distance to keep readers interested and engaged. And when Trump loses by high-single digits instead of low-single digits, well, nobody's perfect, right?
At any rate, I'll make note of a broad-based polling movement in Trump's direction at such time as it actually manifests itself, and not before. And currently, minus the Rasmussen figures, the RCP average has Mrs. Clinton leading Il Douche 49%-41%. A reality of which I will also be making frequent note, if for no other reason than to remind the latter's supporters of their grievous mistakes in which the #NeverTrump remnant declines to share.