When Donald Trump announced his candidacy for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination, many predicted that Trump would provide great entertainment and great angst for the GOP. With new polls showing a bump in support for Trump - a clear confirmation of just how insane the GOP base has become - the terror among the so-called GOP establishment is growing. The prospect they fear is that of Trump on the debate stage will prompt all kinds of lunacy and push other GOP candidates to join in the batshitery and damage the party's general election prospects. Politico looks at the situation. Here are excerpts:
The GOP has made a practice in more recent years of providing a platform for religious extremists, racists, and lunatics. Donald Trump on the debate stage is the natural result of the GOP's embrace of ignorance and bigotry. I hope Trump causes utter chaos during the GOP debates.All jokes aside, the Republican Party is officially afraid of Donald Trump.He has virtually zero chance of winning the presidential nomination. But insiders worry that the loud-mouthed mogul is more than just a minor comedic nuisance on cable news; they fret that he’s a loose cannon whose rants about Mexicans and scorched-earth attacks on his rivals will damage the eventual nominee and hurt a party struggling to connect with women and minorities and desperate to win.“Donald Trump is like watching a roadside accident,” said former George W. Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer. “Everybody pulls over to see the mess. And Trump thinks that’s entertainment. But running for president is serious. And the risk for the party is he tarnishes everybody.”Those risks were amplified this week after a trio of polls showed him likely to earn a coveted invitation to the party’s debates, which ironically were restructured with the very goal of avoiding the circus-like atmosphere of 2012. Giving Trump a major platform just as the country is tuning in is not exactly the Big Tent the party’s bigwigs had in mind.Trump currently sits in eighth place among Republicans, according to the RealClearPolitics’ average of national polls — ahead of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry. And this week, he came in second in two New Hampshire polls and in a Fox News national poll, finishing behind only former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush in all three.
Beyond that, there are concerns about what he’ll do once he’s on the stage — namely, go hard after the other Republican hopefuls and say incendiary things that will hurt the party.Asked whether Trump will keep up the attacks, campaign manager Corey Lewandowski said he would. “They should be worried about Donald Trump,” Lewandowski said of the party establishment, before criticizing Rubio and Bush on several issues.[A]bove all the Republican National Committee — whose self-assessment of the party’s failure in 2012 urged the importance of appealing to nonwhite voters, especially Hispanics, 71 percent of whom voted for President Barack Obama — is nervous about Trump’s rhetoric. He accused Mexican immigrants of being rapists and smuggling drugs in his announcement speech, and said at a January Republican cattle call in Iowa that half the undocumented immigrants in the U.S. are criminals. In 2011, he led the racially loaded calls for Obama to release his long-form birth certificate and, in April, blamed the president for the riots in Baltimore following the death of Freddie Gray.
“Most of the rank-and-file Republicans think, ‘What have we done to let a guy like Donald Trump on the debate stage?’” said one Iowa Republican activist with ties to the party. “When I saw the New Hampshire poll, I was like, ‘Oh my god.’”