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How Democrats can capitalize on #NeverTrump sentiment

By: admin , By Rick Holmes//March 9, 2016

How Democrats can capitalize on #NeverTrump sentiment

By: admin , By Rick Holmes//March 9, 2016//

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Rick HolmesDonald Trump’s delegate count keeps climbing, and so does another important tally: the list of Republicans promising they’ll never vote for him.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker added his name to the list last week; U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska weeks ago. Mitt Romney stepped up too, laying out a more devastating critique than Trump’s opponents have mustered. The party’s other recent standard-bearer, John McCain, seconded Romney’s sentiments. Neither took the full pledge not to vote for Trump if he’s the nominee, at least not yet.

But more than 100 prominent Republican national security professionals were unequivocal. “As committed and loyal Republicans, we are unable to support a Party ticket with Mr. Trump at its head,” reads a letter they signed. “We commit ourselves to working energetically to prevent the election of someone so utterly unfitted to the office.”

Less prominent Republicans are taking the pledge by the thousands, in Facebook and Twitter posts carrying the #NeverTrump label, and in emails sent to friends.

Megan McArdle, a right-leaning columnist for Bloomberg View, solicited emails from lifetime Republicans on the topic, and got hundreds of replies. “These people are not quietly concerned about Trump,” she wrote. “They are appalled, repulsed, afraid and dismayed that their party could have let this happen.”

It would be foolhardy to predict exactly where this is headed, but the results so far have established a certain dynamic. Trump is likely to build on his delegate lead, but his opponents will stay in. Romney and others are maneuvering for a brokered convention.

That means the brawl in the Republican sandbox will continue for months. Trump keeps admitting he has to become more “presidential,” but as long as people are hitting him, he can’t resist the urge to hit back harder.

In a typical campaign, the presumptive nominee is evident by spring, and he can spend a couple of months unifying the party, linking his campaign to the party machinery and planning the convention, with a short trip to Europe or Israel thrown in to burnish the candidate’s foreign policy credentials. But I wouldn’t expect to see Trump posing for team photos with the Republican leadership in Congress, and I doubt he’d get a warm welcome overseas. The party platform and the Cleveland convention will be put together by people hoping to deny him the prize.

I doubt they will succeed, and they may regret it if they do. An old political adage says “Democrats fall in love; Republicans fall in line.” But that won’t likely apply to Trump and to his delegates.  If the party establishment steals the nomination from The Donald, they will burn the house down.

Will the GOP establishment “fall in line” behind Trump? Some surely will, especially politicians whose constituents have joined the Trump parade. That didn’t stop Baker from taking the anti-Trump pledge the day after Trump won Massachusetts by a big margin, but Baker’s not your typical Republican.

But Chris Christie probably already regrets jumping on Trump’s bandwagon. Friends and supporters have denounced him. After Trump put Christie on display Tuesday night like a trophy on the Mar-a-Lago mantle, the former Republican heavyweight became an object of ridicule.

Pushback against a party’s frontrunner isn’t unusual, but I’ve never seen anything like this. It’s hard to imagine the Republicans coming out of Cleveland united behind any candidate. Someone – either the Trumpistas or the #NeverTrump brigades – will go home mad.

The question is how well the Democrats – presumably led by Hillary Clinton – can capitalize on the opportunity presented by the Republicans’ civil war. Can they hold on to the White House and reclaim the Senate? Can they convert a flukey election into a governing mandate?

Clinton needs to stay positive and avoid getting into mudfights with Trump. There’s no shortage of other people willing to attack him, and the fire he returns will be directed at them, not the Democratic nominee. Hillary needs to be the grandmother, warm and dignified, who cares about the day-to-day problems facing middle-class families.

The boldest, smartest move Clinton could make would be to put an anti-Trump Republican on the ticket. They could form a sanity ticket to run against the craziness of Trump. They could declare their intention to break the partisan gridlock in Washington by choosing common ground over political games.

Here’s one suggestion to get the speculation started: Ohio Gov. John Kasich, easily the most experienced and reasonable of the GOP presidential candidates. Not only would he be an asset in any administration, he would deliver Ohio in November.

Far-fetched? Maybe, but at this point nothing would surprise me.


Rick Holmes writes for GateHouse Media and the MetroWest Daily News. He can be reached at [email protected].

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