The Republican Party is playing out its own version of Captain America: Civil War. While major figures like Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney remain opposed to presumptive nominee Donald Trump, many of his previous foes have come around to backing The Donald.
Trump announced on Wednesday that he would no longer entirely self-finance his campaign. During the primary, The Donald routinely denounced super PACs and boasted that he didn’t need third-party support. For the general election, however, he told the Wall Street Journal that he would create a “world-class finance organization.” Perhaps for this reason, many major Republican donors have switched their funding from anti-Trump toward the billionaire.
Here is PJ Media’s list of ten major Republican influencers — politicians, pundits, and donors — who once opposed The Donald but have now gravitated toward the real estate tycoon.
Governors who would be president:
1. Rick Perry
In a stunning shift, former Texas Governor Rick Perry, the first presidential candidate to drop out of the presidential race and one of the earliest GOP figures to endorse Trump rival Ted Cruz in the primary, has done a 180 — not only endorsing The Donald, but offering to be his running mate. More telling, he once called Trump a “cancer on conservatism,” but is now willing to join the ticket.
In a CNN phone interview on Thursday, Perry announced his decision. “He is one of the most talented people who has ever run for the president I have ever seen,” Perry said. “He is not a perfect man. But what I do believe is that he loves this country and he will surround himself with capable, experienced people and he will listen to them.”
“When Ted said he is done and suspending his campaign — that was the last individual who had a chance” of stopping Trump, Perry said. Despite the emphasis on halting The Donald’s momentum, Perry said he was willing to accept a position as Trump’s running mate. “I am going to be open to any way I can help. I am not going to say no,” the former governor said.
Next Page: Two more governors.
2. Scott Walker
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker endorsed Ted Cruz in March before his state’s pivotal primary, which seemed to give him a boost in stopping Trump. Walker pulled out of the race because of money troubles, but also arguably to allow room for a candidate to defeat The Donald.
Scott Walker drops out of the race and urges fellow candidates to unite behind a candidate who isn’t Donald Trumphttps://t.co/NfvhttwEt8
— Independent Journal (@INJO) September 21, 2015
This week, Walker seemed to change his tune, saying Trump would “clearly” be a better president than Clinton.
3. Bobby Jindal
Perry and Walker are not the only former governors and Republican presidential candidates endorsing Trump, however. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal once called Trump’s campaign “absurd…a non-serious carnival act,” but this week he said he would vote for Trump over likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Next Page: Two senators
4. Susan Collins
Susan Collins, the Republican U.S. senator from Maine, said Trump would have to alter some of his positions, but she will support him in the general election. While Collins never explicitly opposed The Donald, she did seem to grimace at his success in the polls back in July.
Maine Senator Susan Collins, who is considered a moderate in the Senate, let out a deep sigh when asked about the polling rise of the real estate mogul, who has thrown fierce punches and elbows at fellow Republicans critical of him. “From what I understand, those polls were done before his remarks on John McCain,” she said, referring to Trump’s attack on the senior Arizona senator’s war record over the weekend in Iowa. “And a lot of it is he’s well-known.”
5. Mitch McConnell
While House Speaker Paul Ryan has said he cannot back Trump presently, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell offered a tepid endorsement of The Donald on Wednesday. “I have committed to supporting the nominee chosen by Republican voters, and Donald Trump, the presumptive nominee is now on the verge of clinching that nomination,” he said. Although McConnell never explicitly attacked Trump, his statements last month seemed to signal his opposition to the candidate. “When a nominee gets to 1,237 he will actually be the candidate. If he doesn’t, there will be a second ballot,” McConnell declared. “And I’m increasingly optimistic that there may actually be a second ballot.” He criticized “some candidates” for complaining about the rules, subtly alluding to The Donald. Next Page: One major GOP donor coming right up…
6. Sheldon Adelson
On Thursday, the casino magnate and large Republican donor Sheldon Adelson pledged his support for The Donald. “He’s our nominee. Whoever the nominee would turn out to be, any one of the 17 – he was one of the 17. He won fair and square,” Adelson told the New York Times. Trump attacked Adelson in October, tweeting that the casino magnate merely gives money to manipulate candidates into “his perfect little puppet.” The magnate and his wife maxed out to Ted Cruz in November, but did not endorse the Texas senator or Florida Senator Marco Rubio.
Sheldon Adelson is looking to give big dollars to Rubio because he feels he can mold him into his perfect little puppet. I agree! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 13, 2015
In December, Adelson met with Trump, reportedly spoke with him about Israel, and called him “very charming.” Nevertheless, the magnate waited to endorse The Donald until all other candidates had dropped out of the race.
Next Page: Two former anti-Trump donors.
7. Toby Neugebauer
Wealthy energy investor Toby Neugebauer gave $10 million to a pro-Cruz super PAC, but on Wednesday, he joined the Trump train. “Today, I am a Trump supporter,” he told USA Today. “I am excited about the voters he turned up.”
8. Stanley Hubbard
Stanley Hubbard, a Minnesota broadcasting magnate who contributed to a super PAC which spent a great deal to stop Trump, also came out in support of the real estate tycoon. “I am going to do what I can to help him,” Hubbard said. “He wasn’t my first choice, but I think you’ll find he’ll moderate himself” for the general election.
Most major GOP donors will likely focus on down-ballot Republican campaigns this cycle.
The Club for Growth, which endorsed Ted Cruz in March, and spent $11 million trying to stop The Donald, acknowledged Trump’s victory. A spokesman said the group’s branches “will do what we’ve always done best: fight hard to win congressional elections for true economic conservatives.”
Freedom Partners, the main arm of the network launched by Charles and David Koch, has launched $3 million in ads for Senate races to help Republicans. Koch recently caused a stir by suggesting Clinton might be preferable to the Republican nominee, but he did not endorse her, and some say he is unlikely to get involved in the presidential race one way or the other.
Next Page: Your Weekly Standard editor, coming right up…
9. Bill Kristol
Bill Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard, originally stood firm in the #NeverTrump movement. He recently tweeted this:
Lines from a patriotic poet in the future:
“Listen my children and your heart shall thump
At the noble efforts of Never Trump…”
— Bill Kristol (@BillKristol) April 19, 2016
In an interview with Newsmax, however, Kristol changed his tune. “I guess never say never. On the one hand, I’ll say never Trump, and on the other hand, I’ll say never say never and leave it ambiguous.” He did admit that, if the “right” third party candidate came along, he might support that person.
Update: Kristol tentatively supported Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse on Friday, declaring, “It’s really important that Trump not be the face of American conservatism or the Republican party.” It seems his “never say never” stance has weakened in the past few days. If we’re keeping the Captain America: Civil War theme, he might be — spoiler! — the character who switches sides
Next Page: The big boss-man himself, Karl Rove!
10. Karl Rove
In early April, notorious Republican strategist Karl Rove attacked Trump as “a petty man consumed by resentment and bitterness who finds satisfaction in sowing, rather than healing, divisions.” To be fair, he did suggest that Trump needed New York to win, and The Donald famously won the Empire State by large margins, rushing in his ultimate victory.
Next Page: A bonus. You’ll never guess who…
11. Dick Cheney
On Friday, former Vice President Dick Cheney told CNN he would support Donald Trump. In February, Cheney attacked The Donald for his comments against former President George W. Bush on the September 11, 2001 terror attacks. The former VP said Trump “sounds like a liberal democrat” for saying Bush lied to get America to invade Iraq.
South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham said he was a “little bit” surprised when informed Cheney would be backing The Donald. “Dick Cheney’s a great man,” Graham said. “I can understand when people want to support the nominee of the Republican Party,” he admitted. “I would like to be able to do that, but I just can’t.”
As Graham suggests, these eleven figures will certainly not stave off the GOP civil war which is likely in the works. In addition to Paul Ryan’s hesitancy, other Republican leaders are refusing to get on board. Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse has signaled his opposition to The Donald, declaring that he is still #NeverTrump and calling for a third party conservative candidate.
If Bernie Sanders does push all the way to the convention, as he recently proclaimed, and he refuses to concede afterwards, then it is possible we could see something we haven’t since the pivotal election of 1860 — a showdown between four viable candidates, in two break-away parties. Stay tuned, this could get very interesting.