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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

After Trump, the Deluge

It’s hard to imagine at this point who will emerge from the mess the Republican party is making of itself to be the GOP standard-bearer in the fall.

Donald Trump’s opponents within the party unable to find a candidate who can excite the voters have spent $70 million so far on ads to tear the front-runner down, and they seem to be working: Trump’s momentum has been halted. But that could all change over the next couple weeks if the billionaire businessman hangs on to win the delegate-rich New York and Pennsylvania primaries.

Whatever the outcome in those states, Trump and his closest remaining rival, Senator Ted Cruz, are likely to enter the Republican National Convention in July short of the number of state delegates they need to win the nomination outright. In the meantime, who knows what games party officials will play with the rules to deny the voter-chosen favorite the nomination? One longtime party player has already signaled that Cruz will be discarded once he stops Trump.

So then what will party leaders do? Give the nomination to Ohio Governor John Kasich whose entire campaign is predicated on convention chaos? Will they trust their fortunes in a national election to a nominee who can’t even win Republican votes? Will they have any choice? House Speaker Paul Ryan, a man who definitely has an eye to the future, isn’t going to risk his brand by alienating angry Trump and Cruz voters forever, and most other ambitious Republicans are likely to share that view. So it may be Kasich by default or some other senior Republican like Mitt Romney who is willing to take one for the team. At this point, it seems clear that GOP leaders would rather lose the election than risk losing their place at the dinner table during a Trump presidency.

Democrats may find themselves in a similar place if Hillary Clinton is indicted for mishandling classified information while serving as secretary of State although that’s an increasingly unlikely scenario. Elizabeth Warren, the future queen of the party, isn’t going to risk that future on an election this chaotic, so since Democratic party leaders have made it clear that the nominee will not be Bernie Sanders, look for an old-timer like Joe Biden to jump in as a one-term alternative. This clears the way for Warren in 2020 who’ll face much clear sailing against the wreckage of what once was the Grand Old Party.

For Rasmussen Reports, I’m Fran Coombs.