The odds that Donald Trump wins the Republican presidential nomination are going up.
Eighty-one percent of Republican insiders say the likelihood that Trump becomes their party’s nominee is more today than it was a month ago, and 79 percent of Democrats said the same. That’s according to the POLITICO Caucus, our weekly bipartisan survey of top strategists, operatives and activists in the early-voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada.
“I can’t even describe the lunacy of him as our nominee. But reason has not applied to date in this race, and my hopes are fleeting that it will ever surface,” lamented an Iowa Republican, who like all participants was granted anonymity in order to speak freely.
“Predictions of his demise keep not coming true,” added a New Hampshire Republican.
Asserted a South Carolina Republican, “Donald Trump being the GOP nominee is now within the realm of possibility.”
Jeb Bush, once a front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, is implementing an across-the-board pay cut for his struggling campaign as he attempts to regain traction just 100 days before the party’s first nominating contest.
The campaign is removing some senior staff from the payroll, parting ways with some consultants, and downsizing its Miami headquarters to save more than $1 million per month and cut payroll by 40 percent this week, according to Bush campaign officials who requested anonymity to speak about internal changes. Senior leadership positions remain unchanged.
The campaign is also cutting back 45 percent of its budget, except for dollars earmarked for TV advertising and spending for voter contacts, such as phone calls and mailers.
To win the GOP primary and, more important, the general election, a candidate must be able to play to both grassroots supporters and the major donors. Since the dawn of the era of Internet campaigns, beginning in the 2000 election, no candidate in either party who was not, at this point in the election cycle, in the top two in grassroots fundraising has won the nomination, nor has any candidate outside the top three in major-donor funding. Candidates who cannot win the support of major donors ultimately lack the qualities to be competitive in a general election. Influential votes and voices matter, and not just for their money. This is why candidates such as Bernie Sanders are extremely unlikely to be president, no matter how much money they raise.
Conversely, candidates whom big donors love but who do not excite the base can sometimes be lifted by the establishment to the nomination but have no hope in the general election. This why candidates such as Rudy Giuliani, despite his enormous major-donor fundraising totals, went absolutely nowhere in the GOP primaries. Ultimately, it is candidates who — e.g., Obama and George W. Bush — excite the grassroots and do well with major donors who win. Ultimately, it is candidates who excite the grassroots and do well with major donors who win.
Brinton concludes that Jeb Bush, unloved by the grassroots, cannot be the nominee. Aside from Trump, know who is best positioned, from a fundraising POV, to win the GOP nomination?
So, conservative voters may face a 2016 presidential contest between Trump and Clinton, or Cruz and Clinton. In such a showdown, incredibly, the liberal Democrat would arguably be less of an ideologue than either Republican.
Evangelical writer Thomas Kidd says there is no way he, as a Christian, could support a Trump candidacy, even if it meant a Clinton presidency. I know where he’s coming from. It will be hard for some conservative Christians to conceive of voting for Ted Cruz, who is a somewhat more respectable demagogue, but a demagogue indeed (‘memba this?). Neither Trump nor Cruz is electable. It’s looking like the only GOP candidate who might have the power to stop them is Marco Rubio, of all people. If he can’t do it, Republican Party bigs may have to hold their noses and back Cruz as the only way of stopping Trump.
It wasn’t long ago that Republicans were excited about the 2016 race, looking out over all the strong candidates in the field. That was before the Summer of Trump.