How much longer can this remain politically sustainable? A new CNN poll finds that a solid majority of Americans wants Obama to nominate someone to the High Court, and wants Republicans to give that nominee a hearing:
Overall, 58% say they’d like to see the President nominate someone to the Court rather than leave the seat vacant until a new president takes office next year, 41% would prefer a vacancy.And more — 66% — say that whomever Obama nominates should get a hearing in the Senate. But once that happens, 48% say that if most or all Republicans in the Senate oppose Obama’s nominee, they would be justified in preventing a vote to confirm him or her.
Keep in mind, the current GOP stance is not just that Republicans will filibuster Obama’s nominee — though they very well might, if it comes to that — it’s that they won’t give any hearing to the nominee at all, no matter who it is, because Obama should not get to pick that person. The CNN poll also finds that a large majority of independents — 59 percent — want Obama to nominate someone.
If Trump continues to march towards the nomination, can Republicans really stick with that stance? Vulnerable Senators up for reelection in states carried by Obama are going to be asked to justify their implicit position that Obama’s nominee does not deserve a hearing, while someone nominated by President Trump would deserve a hearing. Obviously these Senators can say that they don’t support Trump for president. But even if they do, that would seem to make their current stance harder to maintain, not easier. And this also goes for GOP leaders, too: if they increasingly warn that Trump is a danger to the country, even as he appears to be increasingly unstoppable for the nomination, media scrutiny of their current vow of inaction on Obama’s nominee is likely to intensify.
Republicans can of course hold off on giving Obama’s nominee a hearing in hopes that Trump falters. The First Read crew does the math and concludes there are scenarios in which Trump might be denied an outright majority of the delegates. But even then, the politics of the Supreme Court battle could get worse and worse. After all, in this scenario, Trump might still emerge with the most delegates — without an outright majority — and Republicans would seek to deny him the nomination at a contested convention. That could get very ugly and unpredictable, reinforcing an image of a party in full blown chaos. At that point Obama will have nominated someone, probably a moderate, and an intense campaign will kick in pressuring Republicans to do their jobs and consider that person.
The question would then become how much further into dysfunction and outright bedlam the GOP can sink — on multiple fronts — before Republican leaders conclude the political damage of inaction on Obama’s nominee is too great to sustain.
* CONSERVATIVES TO BACK THIRD PARTY RUN? The New York Times reports that some conservatives are beginning to talk about getting behind a third party candidate, should Trump win the nomination. Here’s Bill Kristol:
“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.”
In other words, they would effectively concede the White House in order to limit the damage Trump does to Republicans down-ticket, hopefully preventing the GOP from losing control of one (or even both) houses of Congress.
* SOME REPUBLICANS ACQUIESCING TO TRUMP: The Post has a deep reported dive into the “pandemonium” that is breaking out in GOP ranks as some scramble to stop Trump, while others are coming around to accepting him as their nominee. This, from William Bennet, is interesting:
“I’m used to being the moral scold, but Trump is winning fair and square, so why should the nomination be grabbed from him?” asked Bennett, now a conservative radio host. “We’ve been trying to get white working-class people into the party for a long time. Now they’re here in huge numbers because of Trump and we’re going to alienate them? I don’t get it. Too many people are on their high horse.”
Keep an eye on that: the notion that Trump will bring a lot of working class whites into the GOP may emerge as a key argument for accepting him.
* ROMNEY TO MAKE CASE AGAINST DONALD TRUMP: Mitt Romney is giving a speech today in which he’ll urge Republicans not to support Trump. CNN has some experts:
Romney thinks “Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud” and that he’s “playing the American public for suckers,” according to prepared remarks…Romney will also touch on a “twisted example of evil trumping good: “Trump’s claims that he admires Russian President Vladimir Putin while calling “George W. Bush a liar.”
A failed plutocrat dream candidate is the perfect front man for the ongoing GOP elite donor-backed effort to stop the guy who is winning more GOP voters than anyone else by running as the scourge of the plutocrats.
* WHY MITT IS SPEAKING OUT NOW: Bloomberg reports on the Mittster’s motives:
With Trump’s convincing victories on Tuesday…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….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.
If Trump continues racking up wins in this Saturday’s contests (Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana), it could get harder for GOP lawmakers to refrain from “falling in line.”
* TRUMP HITS BACK AT ROMNEY: Here is one of Trump’s many responses:
I am the only one who can beat Hillary Clinton. I am not a Mitt Romney, who doesn't know how to win. Hillary wants no part of "Trump"— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 3, 2016
Byron York reports that Trump supporters he has spoken to say they fault Romney for failing to beat Obama in 2012 and now see him as a symbol of “complacent” GOP “insider-dom.” No one could have predicted that!
* TRUMP IS A MAJOR FIXTURE IN FLORIDA: The Post reports that Marco Rubio is investing huge effort in winning Florida on March 15th, because if he loses there, it’s all over. But:
In Florida, Trump’s name adorns several affluent properties along the Miami coastline, and his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach has become a fixture among Florida’s upper crust. In Miami, Trump’s National Doral Club — one of three golf clubs he has in the state — hosts a PGA golf tournament each year….Trump is easily dominating television and radio newscasts: On Tuesday night, TV networks aired Trump’s press conference from the Mar-a-Lago resort while mostly ignoring Rubio’s Miami rally.
The story could end up being that Trump’s dominance of the information environment enables him to beat Rubio in his own state.