Republican Elites Resign Themselves to Trump

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Presidential Candidate Donald Trump Holds Indiana Campaign Rally
Photo: Luke Sharrett/�� 2016 Bloomberg Finance LP

Donald Trump’s campaign is having one of its best weeks so far, and its momentum seems to be catching. After sweeping the five northeastern primaries Tuesday night, Trump won almost all of Pennsylvania’s unbound delegates, giving his total delegate count an unexpected boost. He’s also the favorite to win Indiana’s May 3 primary, and he’s polling much higher than expected in California and Oregon — if those numbers hold, he’s all but certain to clinch the required 1,237 delegates to become the Republican nominee. His nomination is beginning to feel not only possible, but inevitable. And his relentless popularity is beginning to sway Republican party elites.

People are realizing that he’s the likely nominee,” Tim Pawlenty, a former Minnesota governor who previously endorsed Senator Marco Rubio, told the Washington Post. “The hysteria has died down, and the range of emotion is from resignation to enthusiasm.” 

Growing acceptance of Trump is due in part to Republicans’ fear that a contested convention will damage the party beyond repair. Dick Wadhams, the former Colorado party chairman, told the Post that “More and more people hope he wins that nomination on the first ballot because they do not want to see a convention that explodes into total chaos. People just want this to be over with, and we need a nominee.”

Some are worried that, if they wait until July to settle on a nominee, the Democrats will have a fundraising advantage — not to mention the advantage of a party that’s been united behind a single candidate for a longer period of time. (Although, if Sanders stays in the race, the Democrats probably won’t be able to nail down a nominee until June either.)  

But the apparent inevitability of a Trump nomination is a strong factor in swaying party elites in his favor, too. “Is it a done deal? It’s certainly looking that way,” Reed Galen, a political consultant, told the Post. “You’ll hear people say they never thought he’d end up being the nominee, but for the most part people think he will be the nominee.” 

That same sentiment — that a Trump nomination is a “done deal” — is seeping into Capitol Hill, where The Wall Street Journal says “a new attitude among some Republicans is emerging.” Trump scored two strong endorsements yesterday from Transportation Committee Chairman Bill Shuster and House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller; in his endorsement, Schuster called for the party to unite behind Trump and focus its attacks on Clinton.

You’re not having to stick your neck out quite as far as a few months ago,” Representative Duncan Hunter, who endorsed Trump early on, told WSJ. “It’s less of a stretch now. People like to be with the winner.” Representative Chris Collins, another Trump supporter, said other Republicans are actually coming to him with questions about Trump: “They’re reaching out, I want to support him, I’m going to support him, help me understand … there’s definitely a mood shift, an energy shift.”

Of course, a number of Republican lawmakers still oppose Trump — Lindsey Graham, for example, called his foreign-policy speech “pathetic” and “unnerving.” But Trump, who declared himself the “presumptive nominee” on Tuesday, doesn’t seem to be listening.