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Establishment Faces Stark Choice: Cruz or Trump?

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Tuesday, 19 January 2016 09:50 AM Current | Bio | Archive

As the Republican field of candidates winds down to two conservative grass-roots contenders, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, many wonder who establishment voters would back.

Major Republican donors who had hoped for an establishment candidate to emerge are now, according to The Washington Post’s Robert Costa and Philip Rucker, “suddenly adjusting their thinking and strategies.”

“Their commanding performance at the sixth debate,” concluded The Post in a Page One story January 16, “along with their continued dominance in national and early state polls—have solidified the conclusion of many Republicans that the campaign is becoming a two-person contest.”

I asked a variety of observers of the Republican Party — past office-holders, political consultants, and conservative and moderate activists — who they thought establishment voters might get behind.

“It’s a great question,” former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said. “I am watching a slow drift by the ‘establishment’ — if there is such a thing — toward accommodating, but not supporting, Trump.”

Like Gingrich, Donald Critchlow, director of the Arizona State University Center for Political Thought and Leadership, agreed with Gingrich that “Trump or Cruz” is a question the GOP establishment should be pondering.

“I’ve given a lot of thought to that myself,” said Critchlow, whose forthcoming book “Future Right” explores the modern Republican Party, “At this point, I’d say [the establishment] is undecided. If I had to give you an answer, I would say they would go for Cruz, albeit while holding their noses!”

The Texan would be more appealing to the establishment, he said, “Because he knows a little more than Trump about policy, although he’s not very well liked by many in the leadership of his party. Trump, on the other hand is uncontrollable. There would also be a fear that if he headed the ticket, it would bring down some of the more vulnerable office-holders in swing states—such as Pennsylvania’s Sen. [Pat] Toomey.”

Veteran North Carolina GOP consultant Marc Rotterman differed slightly from Critchlow and Gingrich. Although he believes “many in the establishment will reluctantly support Sen. Cruz mistakenly thinking they can co-opt him,” Rotterman also feels “neither Mr. Trump nor Sen. Cruz can be co-opted by the insiders.

“Frankly, having establishment support at this stage of the game works against any contender. The Republican primaries are about a populist backlash, and those behind it and their families abhor the establishment. Mr. Trump tapped into that anti-establishment fervor early on and he has been the front-runner ever since. At the end of the day, the establishment will rally behind the eventual nominee for one reason: They want to be with a winner.”

“It’s a Hobbesian choice,” former Rep. Tom Davis, a past chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee and leading centrist Republican, said. “I think they’d go for Cruz. He’s not as overtly divisive and more electable and intellectual. Trump has less appeal to the country club set unless they are playing on one of his courses.”

Ed Martin, former Missouri state Republican chairman and now head of the conservative Eagle Forum, said flatly, “I don’t know what to think. The political consultant-industrial class can’t stand either Trump or Cruz and worry they can’t control either of them.”

Martin feels that the “consultant-industrial class” is probably at “Point 7 in a 20-point plan to stop Trump and Cruz from becoming the nominee. Point 19 will be to try to take the nomination at the convention for their favorite left in the race and the last will be to take down the party in November. They would rather see that than lose the party and prestige.”

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.


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Major Republican donors who had hoped for an establishment candidate to emerge are now, according to The Washington Post’s Robert Costa and Philip Rucker, “suddenly adjusting their thinking and strategies.”
cruz, trump, gop
Tuesday, 19 January 2016 09:50 AM
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