Republicans, you are fully justified in panicking. A Washington Post-ABC News poll reports that “negative views of Donald Trump have surged to their highest level of the 2016 campaign.” Sure, Hillary Clinton is unlikable, but not nearly as unlikable as Trump:

The poll finds 70 percent of Americans have an unfavorable view of Trump, including a 56 percent majority who feel this way “strongly.” Negative ratings of Trump are up 10 percentage points from last month to their highest point since he announced his candidacy last summer, nearly reaching the level seen before his campaign began (71 percent). The survey was conducted Wednesday through Sunday among a random national sample of U.S. adults, coming after last week’s primary contests, but with the large majority of interviews completed before Sunday’s massacre at an Orlando club.

In other words, his atrocious response to the Orlando shooting, condemned by both Republicans and Democrats, may drive his unfavorable poll numbers even higher. His unfavorable numbers are 15 points (70/55 percent) higher than Clinton’s, and he’s doing worse even among his core groups (“independents and white Americans who do not have a four-year college degree”).

This should come as no surprise to anyone but bedazzled Trumpkins and the Fox Non-News evening lineup (but I repeat myself). Trump’s buffoonish behavior is not wearing well, and as news coverage turns hostile, his public image worsens. It is perhaps a measure of how poorly the Republican National Committee and Trump’s GOP opponents handled Trump that they could not induce this reaction earlier. But then Reince Priebus was excusing and genuflecting to Trump, allowing a crowded debate stage to shield him from intense scrutiny. Deluded candidates and greedy consultants kept candidates in the race long after it was clear they had no market. And aside from Jeb Bush and eventually Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (and only after months of helping detoxify Trump), GOP candidates largely steered clear of him, afraid to incur his wrath until it was too late to stop his momentum.

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So what now? Things can continue along this path, and Clinton can perhaps sustain a double-digit lead. This will imperil both the White House and Senate, and perhaps the House, as well. Alternatively, GOP leaders such as House Speaker Paul D. Ryan(Wis.), Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), a group of its most prominent governors and all of Trump’s former primary opponents (including ones who endorsed him) can wake up. They might listen to Sens. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who has tried his level best to guide Trump toward sanity on foreign policy. He sounded as if he’s given up, as The Post reports:

“Traditionally, it is a time when people rally around our country, and it’s obviously not what’s occurred, and it’s very disappointing,” Corker said.
Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), a leading national security hawk, said he had “run out of adjectives” for Trump. “I don’t think he has the judgment or the temperament, the experience to deal with what we are facing,” said Graham, who does not currently support the mogul.

 

After shaking the sleep from their eyes and mulling over the bleak future of their party, Corker and Graham’s fellow Republicans would be wise to take several steps. First, they should explain why as Americans, as conservatives and as Republicans they have concluded Trump is unfit to serve and incapable of improvement. Second, they should demand that the convention delegates be entitled to vote their conscience on the first ballot, and/or demand Trump’s tax returns. Third, they should make clear an independent center-right candidate who is qualified and has a competent operation would be a savior — either as an alternate, independent candidate or a substitute at the convention for Trump.

Do I think this is likely? No, not if one looks at their cringeworthy acquiescence to Trump so far. Do I think it’s possible? Yes, but it will take someone of stature — the speaker, for example — to break from the herd. If not, Republicans, please proceed to panic. The election and possibly your party is going up in smoke. And you have only yourselves to blame.

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