Mitt Romney was never going to be president. He said the oddest things – “I like firing people, don’t you?” Yes, he was talking about “firing” Obama and the Democrats, but he sounded like that boss-from-hell from some satiric movie, or from real life. And there he was with one foot up on a hay bale at the Iowa State Fair – “Corporations are people too, my friend.” That’s not something you say to the salt of the earth, near the cows. He was pleasant enough, but clueless. And there was that forty-seven percent thing – he wanted America to reward the Makers not the Takers – those would be that forty-seven percent who were morally unfit and should be given nothing at all, because they deserve nothing. That sounded beyond cruel, but he never did seem to understand that it did. What’s the problem? He only wanted everyone to be self-reliant and personally responsible and all the rest. He really wasn’t a mean man.
Actually he really wasn’t. He was only absurdly rich – from the efforts of his Bain Capital, which took weak companies, disassembled them, and then sold off the parts for massive profits. Thousands lost their jobs each time, but that was just business. What was left usually did well. He made things more efficient. What’s the problem?
Everyone else saw the problem. Mitt Romney lost the 2012 election to Obama and pretty much disappeared. His own party wrote him off. No one wanted his advice. Running him has been a mistake. He never did seem to have a sense of what was going on and what was the right thing to say at the right time in the right place, but now things are desperate:
The rapidly intensifying effort by the Republican establishment to dislodge Donald Trump from the top of the party’s presidential nominating race will star 2012 nominee Mitt Romney, who is preparing a speech for Thursday when he’ll lay out his case against the front-runner.
With Trump’s convincing victories on Tuesday, the single biggest day of voting in the Republican race, Romney was motivated to make a more formal case against him in hopes of keeping him from coalescing more support, according to a Republican source familiar with Romney’s plans. Romney has voiced criticism for Trump in recent months, including his attack last week on the New York businessman’s refusal to release his tax returns.
He himself may have blown it, but there are worse things:
Romney doesn’t believe Trump is the right person to lead the party, the Republican source said. A number of mainstream Republicans are falling in line with Trump, and Romney wants to speak up before more people go that route, the source said.
While making the case against Trump at the Hinckley Institute of Politics Student Forum at the University of Utah, Romney will not endorse one of his opponents, two people familiar with the former Massachusetts governor’s plans said. Romney will, however, praise Florida Senator Marco Rubio, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, and Ohio Governor John Kasich. Romney’s comments will be focused on “the state of the race,” likely echoing past criticism of Trump for failing to release his tax returns, and not decisively distancing himself from the Ku Klux Klan.
It’s a plan, or it isn’t:
The battle inside the GOP is so fluid that Romney’s circle of advisers are not in agreement about how to respond to Trump’s rise towards the nomination.
“There are Republicans opposing Trump, but they are a tiny minority when you look at the voting,” Eric Fehrnstrom, a Republican consultant who was a senior adviser to Romney’s campaign, said in an interview. “The party leadership could make more progress if they focused on building bridges instead of burning them.”
Yes, attacking back and forth right now may be the exact wrong thing to do, and there’s this:
Republican strategist Alex Castellanos is urging the party to line up behind the front-runner.
“Donald Trump whipped the establishment and it is too late for the limp GOP establishment to ask their mommy to step in and rewrite the rules because they were humiliated for their impotence,” Castellanos said in an e-mail to the Washington Post on Wednesday. “If Trump is going to be our nominee, as I believe he is, it is our mission to support Trump and make him the best nominee and president possible.”
In short, suck it up. And look at the angry folks out there. Do you really think those Trump fans will listen to a bit of scolding from the most spectacular failure of the Republican establishment in recent memory? This will make them love Trump even more, and Sam Stein and Ryan Grim add a bit more:
During fall 2011, Mitt Romney decided to take time off the campaign trail to pay a visit to midtown Manhattan. Carefully evading the press, he ducked into a classy high-rise on Fifth Avenue and ascended to the floor where one Donald J. Trump waited.
Trump was, at the time, a vocal critic of various presidential candidates and the primary peddler of the birther conspiracies swirling around President Barack Obama. Romney wasn’t the only Republican in the field who felt the need to cozy up to the businessman. Still, the visit was odd, even uncomfortable. If anyone didn’t need to kiss up to Trump, surely it was the patrician Republican with the high-minded sensibilities.
But Romney and his aides had made a calculation: They didn’t need Trump’s support so much as they needed to avoid his animus.
“What Mitt Romney was seeking was to have Donald Trump not crap all over our campaign for the entire year,” Katie Packer, Romney’s deputy campaign manager, said back in December. “He was either on your team and to some degree would be supportive… or he would be at your throat all the time. And so the calculation was made that it is better to have him on the team and whatever baggage that brings with us.”
Mitt Romney knew better five years ago. Flatter this jerk. He has a big ego. That will tame him. For god’s sake, don’t get in a pissing contest with him. He’ll piss all over you.
It’s too late for that now of course, so the “establishment” folks are going all in:
Major Republican donors convened a conference call Tuesday afternoon, hours before polls closed in Super Tuesday states, to convince fellow donors to fund an effort to cripple frontrunner Donald Trump.
The call was hosted by Chicago Cubs co-owner Todd Ricketts, CEO of Hewlett Packard Enterprise Meg Whitman and hedge fund manager Paul Singer, who argued that it’s not too late to stop Donald Trump. They warned, however: It has to happen fast, before the winner-take-all March 15 primaries cement Trump’s delegate lead.
Many former donors to Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign who don’t have a candidate to back were on the call.
A key state is Florida, argued Brian Baker, a Ricketts associate who moderated the discussion, according to a call participant. Illinois and Missouri are other places where ads from anti-Trump super PAC Our Principles PAC (so far funded mostly by a member of the wealthy Ricketts family) could make a difference.
Our Principles PAC had announced earlier on Tuesday a seven-figure ad buy to air nationally on CNN and on Fox in Florida, Illinois and Michigan attacking Trump over his now-defunct real estate school Trump University as being a “scam.”
And it is time to pull together:
Donors have been reluctant to get on board with anti-Trump efforts out of skittishness around attacking him – and a failure to coalesce around a clear alternative candidate. Whitman backed Chris Christie; Ricketts had backed Scott Walker; and Singer is supporting Marco Rubio.
The argument to these donors now: Trump has only been stopped in places where anti-Trump advertising has been on the airwaves. Our Principles PAC advertised in Iowa, where Cruz won. The Club for Growth was up against Trump in Oklahoma, another state that Cruz won.
Ah ha! This could work, or not:
Skepticism among donors exists. One longtime Republican donor, Fred Malek, who was not on the call, told NBC News last week that efforts to try and stop Trump at this point won’t work.
“If you did that I think there’d be deep-seated resentment at a group of wealthy donors telling people what to do,” Malek said in a recent interview.
But that’s what wealthy donors do:
The leaders are following up with donors on Wednesday calling with inquiries or questions.
And some are enthusiastically on board. At least one asked: How can I wire the money so it arrives as fast as possible?
Politico adds more detail:
“The money is not going to be a problem. We will raise what we need to do what we need to do,” the person close to the new anti-Trump PAC said. “Yes, there are people who are skeptical, but there are just as many ready to write big checks. The question is only whether Trump truly is really Teflon.”
The theory, this person said, is that voters are still largely unaware of the full case against Trump. “We have not seen how he holds up to real sustained attacks over the KKK and David Duke stuff, over Trump University, over Trump Mortgage. People don’t really know about that stuff. We are about to find out what happens when they find out about it.”
What will happen? This will happen:
Hope Hicks, a spokeswoman for Trump, dismissed the latest effort. “This is yet another attempt by the establishment elites and dark money that control the weak politicians to maintain control of our broken and corrupt system. Mr. Trump will continue to stand for the people and the issues they care about,” she said.
Fine, but other things matter:
The pitch to Wall Street titans and other CEOs is that a President Trump would be disastrous for markets and the economy. Many economists say that if the U.S. were to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants in a single year, the immediate hit to gross domestic product would lead to a depression. And slapping massive tariffs on goods from Mexico and China could dramatically increase prices for U.S. consumers and create destabilizing trade wars. “The most important thing about Trump is, he is completely unpredictable and volatile, and the one thing business needs is predictability,” Packer said.
But the money may not be there:
Many Wall Street donors are already burned out after pumping over $100 million to Jeb Bush and his Right to Rise super-PAC with nothing to show for it. Wall Street’s support is also splintered among candidates at the moment. Singer is backing Rubio. Financiers Stanley Druckenmiller and Ken Langone are backing Kasich. And many senior executives say trying to stop Trump now is a foolish crusade that will wind up burning cash with nothing to show for it.
“My personal view is that Trump is going to get the nomination anyway and there is nothing that can be done about it now,” the chief executive of a Wall Street bank who once backed Bush said in an interview on Wednesday after turning down a pitch to contribute to a new anti-Trump super PAC. “I never believed Trump could get anywhere near where he is right now. I thought he was ridiculous and people wouldn’t really vote for him. All of that was wrong.”
Another top Wall Street executive who raised large amounts for Bush and has so far declined to help fund the new PAC dedicated to stopping Trump said that if there were a single alternative in the race things might be different. But as it is, this executive said, there is virtually no way to keep Trump from the nomination.
“I think Trump is going to win, and my concern is that anything we do now is just going to help Hillary Clinton win the general election,” the executive said. He added that the theory that Rubio or someone else could take the nomination in a brokered convention borders on the absurd.
Now what? There’s this alternative:
Spurred by Donald J. Trump’s mounting victories, a small but influential – and growing – group of conservative leaders are calling for a third-party option to spare voters a wrenching general election choice between a Republican they consider completely unacceptable and Hillary Clinton.
While he has gained intense popularity on the right, Mr. Trump has alienated key blocs in the Republican coalition with his slash-and-burn campaign. For many, his initial refusal last weekend to disavow an endorsement from David Duke, the white supremacist, was a breaking point.
Two top Republicans, Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Gov. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, said this week that they would not vote for Mr. Trump in November.
Mr. Trump has alienated voters from several wings of the party: mainstream Christian activists, who view his angry outlook as antithetical to their faith; centrists, who see him as the most divisive politician in a generation; and national security experts, who have recoiled from his praise for autocrats like President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and believe he should not control nuclear weapons.
This is odd. Donald Trump doesn’t do the third-party thing, they do:
William Kristol, editor of the conservative Weekly Standard magazine, said he would work actively to put forward an “independent Republican” ticket if Mr. Trump was the nominee, and floated Mr. Sasse as a recruit.
“That ticket would simply be a one-time, emergency adjustment to the unfortunate circumstance (if it happens) of a Trump nomination,” Mr. Kristol wrote in an email. It “would support other Republicans running for Congress and other offices, and would allow voters to correct the temporary mistake (if they make it) of nominating Trump.”
These folks are serious:
Max Boot, a foreign policy adviser to Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, said that if efforts to block Mr. Trump fell short, he would vote against a Republican nominee for the first time in his life.
“I would sooner vote for Josef Stalin than I would vote for Donald Trump,” said Mr. Boot, who expressed optimism that Mr. Trump could still be defeated. He added: “There is no way in hell I would ever vote for him. I would far more readily support Hillary Clinton or Bloomberg if he ran.”
Among religious conservatives, too, anxiety about Mr. Trump is spreading. Russell Moore, head of the political arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, said he had been deluged by evangelicals asking his guidance on what to do in a race between Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton.
A Trump-Clinton race would have no palatable choice, Mr. Moore said. He said it would be impossible for him to support any candidate “who stirs up racial animosity” or supports abortion rights.
There had been widespread discussion, Mr. Moore said, of seeking out “a conservative independent or third-party candidate.”
That would change things:
Defections of any scale could prove lethal to Mr. Trump. He already trails Mrs. Clinton in general election polls, and polling already shows the possibility of mass desertions from the party. A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey this week found that 48 percent of Republicans who do not already back Mr. Trump said they would probably not or definitely not support him in November.
When the House speaker, Paul D. Ryan, rebuked Mr. Trump on Monday for his evasive response to Mr. Duke’s endorsement, Mr. Ryan added that he would support the eventual Republican nominee.
In a news conference Tuesday night, Mr. Trump dismissed the idea of a rogue Republican ticket: “They’ll just lose everything, and that would be the work of a loser.”
They may not care:
Mr. Sasse, a first-term senator, set off a public conversation by declaring on Twitter that he would favor an independent “conservative option” over Mr. Trump. Representative Scott Rigell of Virginia, a Republican from a moderate district on the Atlantic Coast, said he, too, would vote for neither Mr. Trump nor Mrs. Clinton.
“Not only could I not vote for him, but I couldn’t sit and be silent as I watched him advance,” said Mr. Rigell, who added that many of his congressional colleagues shared his reservations. “He is the antithesis of what I would want my son and grandson to be, and I will not associate myself with him.”
The Republican Party has finally disintegrated, and add this:
Fresh off a string of resounding victories in Republican primary elections on Tuesday, Donald Trump had menacing words for House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).
Ryan earlier in the day condemned Trump for equivocating on whether he disavows support from the white supremacists who happen to love his campaign.
“Paul Ryan, I’m sure I’m going to get along great with him,” Trump said. “And if I don’t, he’s going to have to pay a big price. Okay?”
Trump did not elaborate on why or how Ryan would pay a big price if the two can’t get along. Trump uttered the vague threat in response to a reporter asking how he’d get along with Congress while its GOP leaders are condemning his campaign.
Yes, the presumptive nominee of the party just threatened the Speaker of the House, the man who controls the Republican-led House. All he has to do is behave himself:
In response to another question about getting along with Republicans, namely the Republican National Committee, Trump repeated that he hoped to get along with GOP leaders and unify the party.
“I don’t know Paul Ryan well, but I hope to be able to get along with him. I do know Mitch McConnell a little bit, but I hope to be able to get along with him,” Trump said, referring to the Senate majority leader. “But remember this: I have millions and millions and millions of people. This isn’t like it’s a close match.”
He has a bigger dick and he’s swinging it, or he’s just a dick, and Jennifer Steinhauer sees justice here:
Paul D. Ryan and his self-proclaimed “young guns” in the House Republican leadership traversed the country in 2010 harnessing the energy of the Tea Party movement that would sweep them to power that November. But in failing to confront the most divisive forces of the movement, they may have set their party up for its current crisis.
Some of those insurgent winners from that year would eventually turn on the leaders one by one, setting in motion the downfall of Representative Eric Cantor – just as Republicans were attempting to cobble together a modest immigration measure – then blocking the ascent of Representative Kevin McCarthy after they had deposed John A. Boehner as speaker.
Now the Tea Party’s ultimate creation, Donald J. Trump, may be coming for the last young gun unscathed, Mr. Ryan, the speaker of the House.
This had to happen:
Republican lawmakers and candidates often averted their gaze when questions were raised about President Obama’s birth certificate and religion. They tolerated breaches of decorum, such as Representative Joe Wilson’s cry of “You lie” during a presidential address, and even made light of the man who brought many of those alleged conspiracies to the fore: Mr. Trump.
“The party repeatedly made myopic decisions, tolerating the intolerable views of a segment of the party unwilling to accept that problem-solving is complicated,” said Tony Fratto, a Republican consultant who served in the George W. Bush administration. “The short game was winning some midterms. The cost was creating an incoherent and unsustainable coalition.”
Democrats are now seizing on this trajectory, and trying to tie all Republican incumbents to the legacy. “Donald Trump is appealing to some of the darkest forces in America,” Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader, said on Wednesday. “It’s time for Republicans to stop the Frankenstein they created.”
Don’t worry. Mitt Romney will stop that orange-haired Frankenstein. That’s the thinking. And if Romney doesn’t, then they’ll have their own little one-time-only Alternative Republican Party and its nominee.
Hillary Clinton is smiling.