It appears many in the GOP establishment are reaching Stage 5 on the campaign Kubler-Ross model this week, and climbing aboard the Trump Train.
"Throughout the Republican Party, from New Hampshire to Florida to California, many leaders, operatives, donors and activists arrived this week at the conclusion they had been hoping to thwart or at least delay: Donald Trump will be their presidential nominee," reports Philip Rucker.
"An aura of inevitability is now forming around the controversial mogul. Trump smothered his opponents in six straight primaries in the Northeast and vacuumed up more delegates than even the most generous predictions foresaw. He is gaining high-profile endorsements by the day — a legendary Indiana basketball coach on Wednesday, two House committee chairmen on Thursday. And his rivals, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, are making the kind of rushed tactical moves that signal desperation.
"The party is at a turning point. Republican stalwarts opposed to Trump remain fearful of the damage the unconventional and unruly billionaire might inflict on the party’s down-ballot candidates in November. But many also now see him as the all-but-certain nominee and are exhausted by the prospect of a contested July convention, according to interviews this week with more than a dozen party figures from coast to coast.
"'People are realizing that he’s the likely nominee,' said Tim Pawlenty, a former Minnesota governor and one-time endorser of Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.). 'The hysteria has died down and the range of emotion is from resignation to enthusiasm.'
"...In Colorado — where Cruz outfoxed Trump in a series of clamorous meetings earlier this month to win all of the state’s 34 available delegates — former state party chairman Dick Wadhams said, 'Fatigue is probably the perfect description of what people are feeling.'
"'There is an acceptance, a resignation or whatever that Trump is going to be the nominee,' Wadhams continued. 'More and more people hope he wins that nomination on the first ballot because they do not want to see a convention that explodes into total chaos. People just want this to be over with — and we need a nominee.'
(So maybe the reaction isn't quite bumper sticker material yet. At least, not Trump campaign bumper stickers.)
TED CRUZ: AN ACQUIRED TASTE, APPARENTLY
One factor that may be helping the process along: Ted Cruz "is the political version of liver and onions," veteran GOP strategist Ana Navarro said Thursday. "Some people love it and can’t get enough. And some people gag at the mere thought of it."
In the space of just seven minutes today, "Ted Cruz reminded fellow Republicans that he has few friends in the party," report Sean Sullivan and Ed O'Keefe.
"First he tangled with former House speaker John A. Boehner, a longtime foe who so dislikes Cruz that he labeled him 'Lucifer in the flesh.' Then Cruz undercut another Republican, fellow presidential candidate John Kasich, who had entered into an alliance with him to stop GOP front-runner Donald Trump.
"'There is no alliance,' Cruz told reporters on Thursday, acting as if a pact announced by his own campaign days before had never happened."
John Kasich's campaign manager quickly subtweeted his agreement, sort of. Either way, that deal is one dead parrot.
I can't stand liars.— John Weaver (@JWGOP) April 28, 2016
To be fair: the pact was on life support for most of its brief existence. "This alliance had a relatively slim chance of succeeding with both principals totally on board," said Chris Cillizza. "With Kasich off message, it had almost no chance of working. With Cruz insisting there is no alliance, and Kasich's chief strategist throwing the 'liar' card on the table, that slim chance has now turned into a zero percent chance."
(And it may be just as well: it quickly became clear that supporters of the two remaining underdog candidates weren't fans of the deal.)
Cruz's other response: this.
Cruz fundraises off the Boehner attack in an email subject lined: "Over my dead body will he be President" pic.twitter.com/NG6v1bq7Xx— Teddy Schleifer (@teddyschleifer) April 28, 2016
WHAT DOES RUBIO WANT?
Marco Rubio is off the stage — but his 171 delegates are moving to the center of it.
In part at the request of Cruz’s campaign, "he has done what he can to hang onto the 171 delegates he won in 21 states and territories. That is more than Ohio Gov. John Kasich has, even now...." note Ed O'Keefe and Karen Tumulty.
"The best estimates now suggest that Rubio can count on at least 50 delegate votes on the first ballot and may have to relinquish 30 to 40. The remainder — as many as 81 — are in limbo.
"Rubio’s delegates could be crucial, should Trump fall short of the 1,237 delegates he needs to take the nomination on the first ballot.
"They also give him leverage, although those close to him say he is not sure what he would do with it.
"'It’s about keeping doors open — to step through and do what, who knows?' said one adviser, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the topic is sensitive. ..."
SOME ON THE SANDERS TEAM ARE WINNING EITHER WAY...
He hasn't been elected president, but Bernie Sanders is definitely redistributing some serious wealth.
"The small-dollar fundraising juggernaut that has kept Bernie Sanders’s insurgent White House bid afloat far longer than anticipated has generated another unexpected impact: a financial windfall for his team of Washington consultants," report Matea Gold and Anu Narayanswamy.
"By the end of March, the self-described democratic socialist senator from Vermont had spent nearly $166 million on his campaign — more than any other 2016 presidential contender, including rival Hillary Clinton. More than $91 million went to a small group of admakers and media buyers who produced a swarm of commercials and placed them on television, radio and online, according to a Washington Post analysis of Federal Election Commission reports.
"While the vast majority of that money was passed along to television stations and websites to pay for the advertising, millions in fees were kept by the companies, The Post calculated. While it is impossible to determine precisely how much the top consultants have earned, FEC filings indicate the top three media firms have reaped payments of seven figures. ..."
More Sanders math: hard numbers for the number of campaign layoffs (225, say his advisers.)
THE VIEW FROM THE FIELD: Sanders events in Oregon today: well-attended...
...for the most part.
Media check-in is over at Bernie's first non-Portland Oregon event. Still plenty of room. pic.twitter.com/qYQmy6qs7s— daveweigel (@daveweigel) April 28, 2016
In which the campaign literally becomes a Portlandia sketch: Yes, they put a bird on it.
Lots of them.
John Kasich campaigns in Portland. Note the little birds as stars on the American flag. pic.twitter.com/sxslWmNJAm— daveweigel (@daveweigel) April 28, 2016
In proper Oregon fashion I'd say.... A guy is introducing @BernieSanders with a Shakespearean- inspired poem "to Bern or not to Bern"— MaryAlice Parks (@maryaliceparks) April 28, 2016
Steen, from OR, made this hat. She makes an art project every time she sees something negative about Sanders on FB pic.twitter.com/uk19id4bAE— Danny Freeman (@DannyEFreeman) April 28, 2016
Cruz bus heading for South Bend pic.twitter.com/CCnI898LjT— Vaughn Hillyard (@VaughnHillyard) April 28, 2016
Here's the line to get into Trump's Southern California rally today pic.twitter.com/Ww0fqoH8Vl— Jim Dalrymple II (@JimDalrympleII) April 28, 2016
Respect. pic.twitter.com/m2F2tLSdqc— Ellison Barber (@ellisonbarber) April 28, 2016
—Long before John Boehner called Ted Cruz "Lucifer in the flesh," he called him his lawyer. (We know what you're thinking, but we don't do lawyer jokes after 5 p.m.)
—Trump embrace watch: A hat tip (though not an endorsement) from Sen. Bob Corker for the mogul's foreign policy speech.
—Jane Sanders wishes Clinton email investigators would speed things up a bit: "It would be nice if the FBI moved it along."
—#TBT! The odd $500,000 super PAC gift that may have foretold vice presidential candidate Carly Fiorina.
—Donald Trump often points to the DC landmark he got control of. Here's how he did it.
—Support for the idea of including women in any military draft is growing in Congress.
—Jeff Merkley, the long Sanders Senate backer, says that if he's losing, he should drop out before Democrats meet in Philadelphia, allowing the party to avoid a contested convention. Jeb Bush breaks his silence to say he wants to see the GOP go the opposite route.
—Caitlyn Jenner apparently took Donald Trump up on his offer to use the ladies room at Trump Tower.
YOUR DAILY TRAIL PIT STOP: If you want to mute a New Yorker, ask them to talk with one hand tied behind their backs.
Or turn up the volume, and watch this.