Inside the GOP's Increasingly Desperate Bid to Stop Trump

Election '16

As the five states that held primaries on Tuesday were still voting, Politico reportedon yet one more group of conservatives meeting to brainstorm a way to stop Donald Trump from winning the GOP nomination; which at this point — even after John Kasich’s campaign-extending win in Ohio, which renewed talk of a contested convention — feels like closing the barn door after the horses are out.

The brain trust organizing this meet-up in Washington consists of former George W. Bush advisor Bill Wichterman, South Dakota businessman and Republican backer Bob Fischer, and Erick Erickson, who, in what is probably his life’s greatest achievement, once coined the term “goat-fucking child molester” to refer to a retiring Supreme Court justice. The invitation from the three men announced that attendees of the meeting will discuss not only stopping Trump from securing the Republican nomination, but running a third-party “true conservative candidate” in this fall’s general election.

If you are a loyal Republican, you probably feel as if you’re living in “Groundhog Day” re-imagined as an Irwin Allen disaster movie. That is because you have heard prominent Republicans and conservative activists promise over and over that they are working on a plan to make sure you never turn on your TV in July to see Trump giving his acceptance speech at the party convention in Cleveland. Yet each day, each new poll, each state primary has brought you closer to that sight. Every effort to blunt the mogul’s momentum has splattered like a bug across Trump’s windshield or never taken flight to begin with.

Last fall it was GOP consultant Rick Wilson promising the public that there was an enormous opposition research file on Trump that operatives would be drilling deep into with the intention of uncovering some massive pile of dirt that would kill off the campaign. A couple of months later, Wilson teamed with Liz Mair, another GOP consultant, to announce the formation of a super PAC called Trump Card LLC with the express purpose of launching a “guerilla campaign” against Trump. That idea seemed to die pretty quickly, particularly after Trump’s personal media outlet Breitbart attacked.

A couple of months later, the super PAC re-appeared with a new name, Make America Awesome Again. (Coming up with catchy titles is obviously not a skill for which clients have hired Wilson and Mair.) The group launched a couple of attack ads just before the New Hampshire primary. They were so devastating that Trump only won that election by 20 points and 55,000 votes. That’s some money well spent. Donors were probably thrilled.

To be fair, Mair and Wilson aren’t the only two Republicans whose “Stop Trump” efforts have been crushed under the panzer treads of the Trump Wehrmacht. Various PACs and super PACs, some third-party and some attached to the campaigns of Trump’s competitors, have run millions of dollars in TV ads and seen them sink faster than the Lusitania. Promised tough efforts, GOP loyalists have seen party insiders roll out… Mitt Romney robocalls. You could practically hear Trump screaming for mercy.

As the New York Times reported a couple of weeks ago, these anti-Trump efforts have been disorganized, lacking a coherent vision and leadership. Unsurprisingly for a party that reveres corporations and the CEOs that run them, the GOP’s anti-Trump efforts have come to resemble initiatives from a large, bureaucratized company. They are slipshod, ineffective, lacking in robustness, and are accompanied by endless meetings where people in suits sit around spit-balling ideas that barely get off the ground.

Is there any reason to think this new effort will be any different? According to one Politico source, it’s still in its “embryonic” stages, and this is after the votes have been counted in Ohio and Florida. As Politico also pointed out a couple of weeks ago, an independent candidate would have a huge hill to climb to get on the ballot in even a handful of states, let alone all 50. Needless to say, the odds of such a candidate winning the presidency would be slim. At best, he or she would be trying to keep the Democratic and Republican nominees from reaching the 270 electoral votes needed to win, which would throw the election into the House of Representatives. It’s a long shot, but might be worth the attempt to keep the White House Trump-free.

At worst? For Republicans, it would be pulling enough votes from Trump to throw the election to the Democratic candidate. Should enough GOP insiders decide soon to go with a third-party candidate (assuming they can find one), it will be a clear sign that they have given up on 2016 and are going to rely on Republicans in Congress to block a Democratic president’s agenda for four years while the party licks its wounds and tries to piece itself together in time for 2020. At this point, swallowing four years of President Hillary Clinton while hoping the GOP hasn’t permanently split apart might be the most rational option.

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