“It is,” he said, “A five-alarm fire. And there is nobody coming to put it out.”
“It,” in this case, is the possibility that once again Donald Trump will prevail over a splintered Republican field, getting the same 30-40 percent he received in the early primaries in 2016, enough to win the nomination. “He,” is a Republican donor and bundler, a Wall Street financier who regularly hobnobs with senior Republican officials but who also was, uniquely for his tribe, an early and enthusiastic supporter of Trump. His request for anonymity speaks to the bizarreness of this political moment, where even one time staunch supporters of the former president are reluctant to say out-loud what they and their cohort all say privately: That should the former president win the primary again, he would be very likely to lose again to Joe Biden, even as some polls show him besting his 2020 rival.
It is a comment echoed in interviews with dozens of Republican party members, donors, strategists and grassroots leaders, many of whom say it is the conversation they are all having privately among themselves too — how to make sure that Trump doesn’t once again take advantage of a split field and walk away with the Republican nomination, costing the party not just the presidency but a chance to retake the Senate and hold on to the House. Just this week, both the Koch Brothers-affiliated Americans For Prosperity and the anti-tax behemoth Club for Growth signaled that they were looking to rally around a Trump-alternative. And with the Iowa Caucus now just 11 months away, party insiders say that this question — how to stop Trump — is the one they need to find an answer to before too many contenders start piling into the race.
It is also a conversation reminiscent of one many had before. Back in 2016, senior Republicans fretted that putting Trump on top of the ticket would spell certain doom. “If we nominate Trump, we will get destroyed,” later Trump acolyte Lindsey Graham notoriously tweeted. “And we will deserve it.” Those concerns proved to be unfounded, of course, as Trump prevailed over a split Republican field and then went on to defeat Hillary Clinton while Republicans held the House and Senate. But this time around, few Republicans think Trump can pull it off again, not after spending the last three years nursing his grievances over 2020, and especially not after his hand-picked candidates were walloped in the midterms. [Continue reading…]