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Conservatives Battle over Trump, GOP Future

Conservatives Battle over Trump, GOP Future

Thursday, 03 March 2016 02:24 PM

American conservatives are facing a wrenching decision about their party's future: embrace Donald Trump's divisive but winning presidential bid, or somehow prevent him from seizing the Republican nomination.

With the brash billionaire apparently on a glide path to becoming the Republican standardbearer, some party leaders, operatives and voters have panicked at the prospect of nominee Trump, while others are saying it's time to rally around the man leading the pack, for better or worse.

The last-ditch effort to halt Trump's victorious march, some say, threatens to rupture the Grand Old Party.

In some of the bluntest establishment criticism of Trump yet, 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney said Thursday that the real estate mogul would enable a Democratic victory if he runs against Hillary Clinton.

"Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud," Romney said in a speech in Utah, as he urged voters to rally around one of the other candidates: Senator Ted Cruz, Senator Marco Rubio or Ohio Governor John Kasich.

Trump, Romney said, "is playing the American public for suckers."

More than 70 foreign policy experts, meanwhile, have signed an open letter slamming Trump's vision of American power as "wildly inconsistent and unmoored in principle."

His hateful anti-Muslim rhetoric "undercuts the seriousness of combatting Islamic radicalism by alienating partners in the Islamic world," they wrote.

But in interviews with AFP, several conservatives gathering at an annual convention outside Washington were torn.

"I supported Rubio but now I don't think he can win, so now I'm going to have to hold my nose and vote for Trump," Ron Fodor, mayor of the small town Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania, told AFP at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).

Some voters proudly wore Trump t-shirts or "Make America Great Again" hats at the event featuring dozens of speakers. Trump and Rubio speak here Saturday.

People are seeing the Republican Party "potentially being torn up. They're nervous as all heck," former senator and two-time presidential candidate Rick Santorum told the crowd.

Before taking the stage, he warned against launching all-out war against Trump.

"My experience with the anti-efforts is that they aren't particularly effective."



But the anti-Trump coalition is not the issue, argued Senator Ben Sasse, who has vocally led the charge to derail the tycoon.

"We have a frontrunner right now who has waged war against almost every core plank of the platform, so it isn't any anti-movement that's causing that problem," he said.

Trump "has the highest negatives of anyone who's ever run for president."

Scottie Nell Hughes, a Trump supporter, said if he is the catalyst for party disruption, so be it.

"The Republican Party needed to be shattered," she told AFP at CPAC.

"All we tout are our losers like Mitt Romney," Hughes added.

"They've sat there and bullied the people to be quiet. All Mr. Trump is doing is pushing back."

Resignation was setting in for some former Trump critics.

"It is too late," Republican strategist Alex Castellanos, whose earlier call to back an anti-Trump campaign fell flat, told the Washington Post Wednesday.

"There is a fantasy effort to stop Trump, like a fantasy campaign to stop yesterday but it exists only as the denial stage of grief."

Still, the #NeverTrump movement was making a stand at CPAC.

"We need to rally around an alterate candidate," said Brian Hawkins, a 27-year old African-American waving a "Veterans Against Trump" sign.

Trump represents "a direct threat" to conservative values, he added.

"A lot of us are thoroughly offended that these elements of the Republican Party have somehow had the loudest voice or are on the verge of nominating Trump."

Should Trump somehow be blocked from rising to become the nominee, it could be seen as a blatant disregard for Republican voters and democratic principles.

"The Republican Party gave me Trump," whispered Doris, a grandmother from Maryland who asked that her last name not be used, as she walked past Hawkins.

"What we asked for, voted for, what we paid for -- jobs, immigration, health care, balanced budget -- nothing happened," she hissed, criticizing what she said was the party's unprincipled performance in Washington.

Verging on tears, the woman accused the Republican party and President Barack Obama of colluding "to give us Trump."

"And you know what? I think he's going to make it OK."


© AFP 2020

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American conservatives are facing a wrenching decision about their party's future: embrace Donald Trump's divisive but winning presidential bid, or somehow prevent him from seizing the Republican nomination.With the brash billionaire apparently on a glide path to becoming...
US, vote, Republicans, future
Thursday, 03 March 2016 02:24 PM
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