It was a very interesting speech from Mitt Romney this afternoon. At long last, the Republican National Committee has come to the conclusion that Trump is for real, and they are just as frightened by him as much of the rest of the country. So, in the absence of a more respected statesman, Romney was dispatched to talk some “sense” to the electorate and steer them away from Trump before it is too late to derail this runaway train. The gloves came off but I’m not convinced that he landed a knockout punch.
My hunch instead, is that this was a fool’s errand. If anything, this is even more likely to strengthen Trump’s position with his base, who are genuinely angry people, disgusted with politics as usual in Washington and all too happy to point to Romney (as they have pointed to Cruz and Rubio) as “part of the establishment” and part of the problem.
So, what is the likely outcome? This is going to get very interesting. If the plan was to chase Trump out of the game, he may just take his ball and go home. If the RNC thinks that Trump will fall on his sword for the party, I believe they are sadly mistaken. After all, and as many of them have pointed out, he’s not even a Republican! To date, Trump is routinely capturing somewhere between thirty and forty percent of the primary voters. If this holds true through the next couple of primaries, I suspect that Trump will feel comfortable enough to announce that he will happily run as a third party candidate.
At that point, the crystal ball becomes even murkier. With Trump running on a third party ticket and taking say, 35% of the Republican vote, Cruz and Rubio will battle it out until there is just one left standing. Though that person would stand to get 65% of the Republican vote in the general election, in reality, there is likely to be a lot of bad blood and a lot of voters staying home. Maybe only 50% turn out to vote. Meanwhile, as we look at the Democratic side of the aisle, we have to note that in the Super Tuesday primaries, turnout was lackluster in many states. The insistence by the Clintons and the DNC that Bernie Sanders can not win has been balanced by the fact that a lot of Democrats genuinely dislike and distrust Hillary. Voters are already staying away in droves, and that feeling of despair is likely to carry over to the general election.
We could wind up with a general election marred by poor voter turnout and divided among three candidates, and that could result in the failure of any candidate to secure the required majority (270) of votes in the electoral college. At that point, our next President would be chosen by the House of Representatives from among the three candidates running (the Senate would choose the Vice President).
Of course, the longer Trump stays in the primaries as a Republican, and the longer he keeps winning, the less likely it is that the RNC could get rid of him or deny that he is the presumptive nominee. Then, and perhaps I say this with a degree of well earned cynicism, it might come down to a back room “deal” with the man who wrote the book on “The Art of the Deal.” The RNC might have to ask Trump, “How much do you want to drop out of the race?” And Trump could wind up cutting the sweetest deal ever, all the while holding half of the US government hostage.
It will be most illuminating to see how this plays out. If the RNC gets it wrong, we could be witness to the demise of the entire party.