By Prof Don DeBats
The inept group that considers itself the “grown-up wing” of the Republican Party remains flummoxed, infuriated, and largely immobilized by Donald Trump, the unlikely spokesman for the “anger wing” of the American electorate, Democratic as well as Republican.
And despite the wide-spread chagrin, again Democratic as well as Republican, there is a real chance that Donald Trump could become the presidential candidate of Abraham Lincoln’s Republican Party.
A bit of history helps explain how this unlikely situation has emerged.
This is not the first time Trump and the “establishment” of both parties have been at odds. Four years ago, on the Republican side, that same group of adults – including eventual candidate Mitt Romney – “played” Trump, seeking his money but too embarrassed by his gaucheness to appear next to him or acknowledge him.
The contempt was and is bi-partisan. President Obama has weighed in, justifiably alarmed by the increasing coarseness of the American political dialogue and the aggression Trump is stoking.
But again there is history here. Barack Obama was the first political figure Trump decided he could deride as ineligible to run for the presidency because he was not “a natural born American citizen.” That of course is the same line Trump is running this time around, substituting Ted Cruze’s Canadian birth for his “birther” pitch that Obama had been born in Kenya. As the New York Times reminded us recently, then President Obama responded at the White House Correspondents Association Dinner which Trump was attending, mocking and deriding him as a low-class buffoon.
A few weeks ago Mitt Romney, who eventually accepted Trump’s endorsement in the 2012 contest at one of the billionaire’s more gauche establishments (a backdrop blocked from camera view by blue drapes hastily assembled for the occasion), attacked Trump in very similar terms.
Trump gets no respect from the establishment of either side of American politics; perhaps he plays the anger theme so successfully because he is angry, just like those voters who flock to his outrage.
And now the chances of derailing Trump have narrowed to two points. The best opportunity is this Tuesday, March 15. As usual in situations of this type, the only real dynamic is time which in the end will overwhelm indecision and produce a result. And time is running out, fast.
Trump has now 460 of the 1237 delegate votes he needs to win the Republican presidential nomination at the Republican National Nominating Convention to be held in Cleveland, Ohio, beginning July 18.
For the Republicans, March 15 is the second biggest primary day for choosing delegates to that convention (March 1 – Super Tuesday – was the biggest): five states will choose 460 delegates. By Tuesday night Republicans will have chosen 60 percent of the Cleveland delegates with Florida and Ohio the biggest prizes of the night.
Both of those states award all of their delegates (Florida, 99; Ohio, 66) on a winner take all basis, meaning that whichever candidate receives the largest number of votes wins all of the delegates from that state.
So, if Trump comes in first in both states, he has more than half of the delegates required for the nomination.
BUT, if he does not, if he wins neither, and even if he wins one and not the other, then the arithmetic changes and Trump’s path to the nomination becomes far less certain. In that circumstance, the adults in the room will begin seriously to look at the prospects of their last chance for derailing the Trump train: the convention itself.
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