According to a new CNN poll released Tuesday, a full 48 percent of Republicans want to see the party select someone besides Donald J. Trump as its presidential nominee. With recent reports that Trump has failed to set up a competitive presidential campaign — falling far below Hillary Clinton in staffing, fundraising, and uniting his party — Republicans seem to be growing anxious about an inexperienced, undisciplined candidate.
The poll asked respondents, “If it were up to you, who would you rather see the Republican Party choose as its nominee for president — Donald Trump or someone else?” Trump received a mere 51 percent of the vote, while the vague “someone else” got an astounding 48 percent.
The poll also asked whether respondents “would say the presidential nominating campaign made you feel” more or less “like a part of the Republican Party.” While 14 percent said the 2016 primary made them feel closer to the GOP, more than twice that number (32 percent) said it made them feel less like part of the party. Unsurprisingly, the majority (54 percent) said the process has not changed the way they feel about the GOP.
You might expect that, nearly a month after becoming the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party, Trump would receive full-throated support. But the honeymoon phase — if it ever indeed existed — is merely a distant memory.
GOP voters have reason to worry. Trump is nearly out of money, refuses to raise more, hasn’t expanded his ground operation to all 50 states, is trying to alienate the one group whose job it is to help him win in November — the RNC — and appears unaware that his unfavorable ratings continue to skyrocket.
The Donald’s antics are growing stale, and he doesn’t have the electoral muscle to make up for it. All that said, it’s easy to overstate the doom and gloom. Trump is the Republican candidate in what should be a Republican year. Even with his many weaknesses, he is only losing to Hillary by small margins in swing state polls, suggesting — as the Washington Examiner‘s Bryron York put it — “a loss of ordinary proportions.”
No, Trump won’t lose like Goldwater did in 1964 (after all, Johnson’s landslide could at least partially be explained by the outpouring of support for Democrats following the tragic assassination of John F. Kennedy), but it looks like The Donald will lose like Mitt Romney did — in a squeaker that proves nonetheless decisive.
Next Page: But is it at all possible for the GOP to choose someone else? The answer, surprisingly, is yes.
As National Review‘s erstwhile presidential candidate David French pointed out this month, no GOP delegate to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, next month is legally bound to support The Donald. They have the right to break with tradition and support a different candidate, if one were to come along.
If a candidate were to raise a large sum, like $50 million, start to hire staff and build the campaign Trump should have created by now, it is theoretically possible that the delegates could elevate this dark horse over The Donald. Not likely, hardly conceivable, but possible nonetheless.
If Ted Cruz or Scott Walker can emerge from the shadows, coffers bursting and campaign girded for battle, this 2016 election cycle could become even crazier than it already has been. But such a move is not entirely unprecedented — the 1912 Republican primary chose sitting President William Howard Taft over former President Theodore Roosevelt, despite Roosevelt’s success in the limited primaries.
Now, Trump has promised riots if he doesn’t get his crown, and there is a good deal of evidence he would carry out that threat. Any attempt to unseat The Donald will be dangerous and Quixotic, and likely doomed to failure, but when nearly half of the Republican Party still wants somebody else, you could argue that they should have that option.
If that 48 percent of the GOP becomes something like 55 percent, a movement to #FreeTheDelegates might just pick up enough steam to make a real difference, and the #NeverTrump activists could become something else entirely.
— Bill Kristol (@BillKristol) June 20, 2016
— Cheri Jacobus (@CheriJacobus) June 21, 2016