Byron York reports on the magical thinking behind the grudging acceptance of Trump by some leading Republicans:
“Trump does bring a little magic to this in that he could shuffle the traditional battleground map,” one former presidential campaign manager told me. “I haven’t seen any data on that, but I’m just getting a feeling that he’s going to put a couple of Midwestern states in play [bold mine-DL].”
This is the sort of thing that someone says when he’s trying to convince himself of something he knows to be false. There’s not really any evidence to support this view, and this person doesn’t even pretend that there’s any evidence for it, but he has a “feeling” that Trump can bring a “little magic” to the election. It is much more likely that if the “traditional battleground map” is altered this year, it will be because states that are normally Republican-leaning will become toss-ups and former swing states will become Democratic-leaning ones. When his supporters say that Trump will shake up the electoral map, they are correct, but their expectation of how the map will look in November is wrong.
Take Florida, example. One new survey finds that Clinton leads in the state by double digits over both Trump and Cruz, and Trump trails by slightly more (49-36%). Florida should be one of the most closely contested states in a general election (Romney lost it by 1 point in 2012), but at the moment Clinton is easily running away with it. Let’s suppose that the Republican nominee makes up some of that gap over the next few months. It still isn’t going to be enough to make him competitive in the fall. Among Cuban Floridians, Trump’s favorability is -60. No Republican is going to win the state with numbers like that, and it seems extremely unlikely that Trump is going to repair his image with these voters in the next six months. If any leading Republicans think that Trump has a realistic shot at winning the election with ratings like that, they are kidding themselves.
One reason why some leading Republicans are reconciling themselves to Trump’s nomination is that they can’t stand Cruz. Another reason is that they have probably decided that the election is lost anyway, and they would rather lose it with Trump, because they can more easily disavow him when it is over. Cruz is a factional candidate, which is why he hasn’t been able to do better in the nomination contest, but that also means that he will have a more organized bloc of supporters in the years to come when the election is over. Faced with the one-off fluke of a Trump nomination or the ongoing headache of a Cruz-inspired faction, more and more leading Republicans are prepared to accept the former.