WaPo's Philip Rucker and Robert Costa document the atrocities as the GOP goes into full Conserva-Schism ahead of Super Tuesday.
The implosion over Donald Trump’s candidacy that Republicans had hoped to avoid arrived so virulently this weekend that many party leaders vowed never to back the billionaire and openly questioned whether the GOP could come together this election year.
At a moment when Republicans had hoped to begin taking on Hillary Clinton — who is seemingly on her way to wrapping up the Democratic nomination — the GOP has instead become consumed by a crisis over its identity and core values that is almost certain to last through the July party convention, if not the rest of the year.
A campaign full of racial overtones and petty, R-rated put-downs grew even uglier Sunday after Trump declined repeatedly in a CNN interview to repudiate the endorsement of him by David Duke, a former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. Trump had disavowed Duke at a news conference on Friday, but he stammered when asked about Duke on Sunday.
Marco Rubio, who has been savaging Trump as a “con man” for three days, responded by saying that Trump’s defiance made him “unelectable.” The senator from Florida said at a rally in Northern Virginia, “We cannot be the party that nominates someone who refuses to condemn white supremacists.”
The fracas comes as the presidential race enters a potentially determinative month of balloting, beginning with primaries and caucuses in 11 states on Tuesday. As the campaign-trail rhetoric grew noxious over the weekend, a sense of fatalism fell over the Republican firmament, from elected officials and figureheads to major donors and strategists.
“This is an existential choice,” said former Minnesota senator Norm Coleman, who is backing Rubio. Asked how the party could unite, Coleman said, “It gets harder every day when you hear things like not disavowing the KKK and David Duke. It’s not getting easier; it’s getting more difficult. . . . I’m hopeful the party won’t destroy itself.”
The choice for voters is not simply one of preference but rather a fundamental one about the direction they want to take the country, with the insurgent Trump promising utter transformation.
“For many Republicans, Trump is more than just a political choice,” said Kevin Madden, a veteran operative who advised 2012 nominee Mitt Romney. “It’s a litmus test for character.”
Madden, like some of his peers, said he could never vote for Trump. If he is the nominee, Madden said, “I’m prepared to write somebody in so that I have a clear conscience.”
And ladies and gentlemen, I am here to call absolute BS on the notion that Republicans would ever sit out, write-in, or flip to the Dems to avoid Trump. The racism Trump demonstrates has been at the heart of the GOP for decades and it hasn't bothered their consciences yet. Why would it start now that Trump has figured out how to win with it?
Unlike some Democrats, who I really do believe would vote for Trump to sabotage the country if their candidate doesn't win the primary, the GOP hates Democrats more than they like themselves, it is what always has united them. The notion that they would vote for Sanders or Clinton instead of Trump is laughable, as laughable as the notion that they will write in Romney or someone else, or that the GOP will split into a third party.
Maybe, maybe they will stay home. Maybe a few. But considering Mitt Romney got 60 million votes in 2012 and everyone basically hated the guy, Trump will get at least that in 2016 and probably more.
The support for the loud, obnoxious racist demagogue is baked in, folks. Tens of millions of Americans are perfectly okay with it. And they're going to vote for Trump. Let's get this notion that Republican voters don't know what they're getting with Trump out of the way. They know exactly what they are getting, and he's winning for a reason.
Republicans could have chosen to stop Trump at any time. They haven't. They won't. Stopping Trump is up to the rest of us.