The GOP “Evolving” on Trump?

By | 4/28/2016 Leave a Comment
Trump's recent victories are forcing many in the GOP to reconsider

After Donald Trump’s shellacking of the competition on July 26th, winning all five states that were in play with thumping majorities, he gave a victory speech at Trump Tower thanking his supporters, laying out his claim to the nomination, and – in an unusual break from his normal modus operandi – took questions from the media.

During the ensuing Q&A, one reporter asked him if he would now describe himself as the “presumptive nominee,” in response to which Mr. Trump offered a clear, unequivocal answer: “I consider myself the presumptive nominee, absolutely.” 

Some time later, another reporter asked a follow-up question on the subject, but this time Trump’s response was considerably less explicit but far more noteworthy – and oddly ignored the following day in the mainstream media.

“You just described yourself as the presumptive nominee,” the reporter noted, “Isn’t there a level of frustration that the party isn’t seeing you that way, even after a night like tonight?”

“I think the party is seeing me that way,” Trump replied. “I’m getting calls from people who’ve said horrible things about me, and now they want to join the team. Names that you wouldn’t believe. Names that you interview and [they] say “Oh, Trump, Trump, Trump,” and they’re calling and they want to join the team.” 

Then asked if he expected those people to come out and announce themselves, Trump responded, “A lot of them will be coming out soon.”

One could of course argue that these “names” – presumably of notable establishment figures – are nothing more than a bluff on Trump’s part to convince the undecided among them that now is the time to jump aboard the Trump train. With gusting winds of momentum behind him it would make sense to capitalize on the moment and shake down some of that low-hanging fruit.

But there was an uncharacteristic earnestness in the way he spoke – more a simple relating of facts than any grandstanding attempt to bolster his credentials. This was Trump the confider, not Trump the promoter.

A mere three weeks earlier, Idaho Senator Jim Risch, in an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, flatly stated that he wouldn’t support Donald Trump’s candidacy and that Ted Cruz was the only credible alternative to lead the party to victory. When pressed by Blitzer to say whether he actually endorsed Cruz, his response was about as tepid as they get: “I guess…it depends on your definition.” But despite this antipathy to the generally loathed-by-his-peers Cruz, Risch was not shy about lambasting Trump and cataloging the various reasons why he would be a disastrous choice for Republicans.  

Fast-forward three weeks and Risch is back on CNN talking to Blitzer again, only this time with the smell of Trump’s thundering victories in New York and the other five Northeastern states still thick in the air. 

Trump had just offered up his foreign policy speech at Washington's Mayflower hotel and Risch was asked his opinion of it. But instead of the damning critique one might expect from an establishment figure that’d been openly hostile towards Trump in the past, Risch’s assessment was surprisingly supportive. While certainly not gushing, he nevertheless resisted being openly critical of the speech, and while noting that Trump still had work to do on his tone and demeanor, there was no mistaking a shift in that of his own.

The following day, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, another previously outspoken critic of Trump, said of the real estate mogul’s potential effect on the race in November: “I think he could change the electoral map in ways we haven't seen before…I think it will be OK.”

The upshot:

Trump’s continuing dominance in the nomination race is forcing some in the party to accept the seemingly inevitable and realign their views on the insurgent candidate who may soon be their new leader. And if Cruz fails to halt Trump in Indiana next Tuesday, you can expect many of those “names” Trump cryptically referred to in his speech to indeed be “coming out soon.”

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