Donald Trump is plainly the best organizer for the #NeverTrump movement. Just today, Ohio Gov. John Kasich affirmed he cannot vote for Trump. Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam declined to endorse Trump after a meeting. The Detroit News reports:
Republican U.S. Rep. Fred Upton says he is not planning to endorse Donald Trump for president, deepening the divide in Michigan’s GOP congressional delegation about supporting the party’s presumptive nominee.
House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Upton, who has the most seniority among the state’s nine GOP delegation members, suggested the campaign of the New York businessman has gone “off the track.”
“I’m going to stay in my lane,” Upton, R-St. Joseph, told Holland radio station WHTC-AM on Tuesday while discussing the likely general election matchup between Trump and presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
“There’s a lot of things that folks are not happy about with either of these two candidates,” he said. “We’re running our own race, and don’t look for me to endorse anyone in this race probably the rest of the year.”
Even more ominous for Trump, House Speaker Paul Ryan (Wis.) left the door wide open to yank back his endorsement, which has caused the speaker endless grief since he announced it. Ask if he would rescind his endorsement, all Ryan would say was: “I don’t have a plan to do that.”
With all the charm of a sledge hammer, Trump adviser Sam Clovis snarls, “Either they want to get behind the presumptive nominee who will be the nominee of this party and make sure that we do everything we can to win in November or we’re just asking them if they can’t do that, then just shut the hell up.” Well, at least not yet, that’s not how things work in American politics. Everyone is free to say what they please; loyalty and respect must be earned.
The #NeverTrump forces may roll their eyes that Republicans didn’t step forward earlier. They may still bemoan Ryan’s endorsement. They should not look askance at converts nor suggest un-endorsers would be looked upon with disdain. It does not matter that pols step forward only after ominous polling for Trump and frightening polling for Ryan’s House Republicans (who sunk 11 points behind the Democrats in one generic congressional poll).
What matters is that Trump himself is fighting with fellow Republicans, showing his campaign operation to be second rate, blowing opportunities to poke holes in Hillary Clinton’s record, doubling down on his unpopular Muslim ban idea and bombing with minority voters. (Eighty-nine percent of Hispanics and 94 percent of African American voters have a negative view of him.) He has “loser” written all over him. No wonder the rats are fleeing the sinking Trump ship.
Trump’s power derives from the fear he will have the power to punish and the delusion that he is going to be elected. The more remote the latter, the less fear he generates. And lacking anything approaching personal loyalty to elected officials, they’d have no other reason to stick by him.
It seems even Trump is coming up with a backup plan. According to one report (denied by the Trump campaign), he’s thinking of launching his own media business. Now, with the exception of places like North Korea, the head of state usually does not own media outlets, so it is hard to see how that would work with him in the White House. No matter. Republican delegates can free him from a fate, in his mind, worse than death: losing. They can dump him and spare the party, the voters and even Trump months and months more of this.