Saturday, September 05, 2015

GOP Establishment Wants Trump-- GONE!


You've heard of the Republican Party's War Against Women and the Republican Party's War Against Science and its wars against the poor and against democracy. There's a new one: the Republican Party's War Against Donald Trump. Nick Confessore blew the whistle in a NY Times report Friday morning. And it goes beyond Trump's obsessive feuds with other GOP candidates and with GOP media critics. He's been openly fighting with Club for Growth lately, and they're ready to start spending big against him and are drooling at the thought of lots of Establishment Republican money going through their (sticky) hands. 

But they're just one of many groups with sharpened knives out for the Mafia-connected Trump now.
Quiet conversations have begun in recent weeks among some of the Republican Party’s biggest donors and normally competing factions, all aimed at a single question: How can we stop Donald Trump?

Republican strategists and donors have assembled focus groups to test negative messages about Mr. Trump. They have amassed dossiers on his previous support for universal health care and higher taxes. They have even discussed the creation of a “super PAC” to convince conservatives that Mr. Trump is not one of them.

But the mammoth big-money network assembled by Republicans in recent years is torn about how best to defuse the threat Mr. Trump holds for their party, and haunted by the worry that any concerted attack will backfire.

In phone calls, private dinners and occasional consultations among otherwise rivalrous outside groups, many have concluded that Mr. Trump’s harsh manner and continued attacks on immigrants and women were endangering the party’s efforts to compete in the general election. Yet after committing hundreds of millions of dollars to shape the Republican primary contest and groom a candidate who can retake the White House, the conservative donor class is finding that money-- even in an era of super PACs and billion-dollar presidential campaigns-- is a devalued currency in the blustery, post-policy campaign fashioned by Mr. Trump, driven not by seven-figure paid advertising campaigns but by Twitter feuds and unending free publicity.

...The Club for Growth, which has spent millions of dollars on feisty intraparty campaigns attacking Republican candidates who deviate from conservative economic orthodoxy, appears closest to moving against Mr. Trump, soliciting advice from among its members and researching potential lines of attack.

...But the club’s president, David McIntosh, said his group was still grappling with how to handle the protean Mr. Trump, whose appeal is based less on policy positions than on tapping into the raw anger of Republican voters against Washington leaders. Mr. McIntosh said some members had even told him they agreed with Mr. Trump’s critique of Washington’s ineffectual establishment even if they did not regard him as very principled.

“Part of our research has been why would a conservative Republican voter find this appealing,” Mr. McIntosh said. “A wonkish explanation that trade is actually good for the country probably won’t assuage them.”

In interviews, several savvy and typically confident Republican donors and strategists seemed puzzled about how to topple Mr. Trump, increasingly worried about the feelings he has stirred among the activist base and uneasy about the consequences for the party.

Andy Sabin, a New York supporter of Jeb Bush, said the question of what to do about Mr. Trump had come up repeatedly on the Hamptons fund-raising circuit this summer, as what seemed like a summer romance by disenchanted conservatives blossomed into a full-blown insurgency.

“He’s been a topic, and he obviously disgusts a lot of people, because he’s been vile,” said Mr. Sabin, who is also a donor to American Crossroads, the party’s leading super PAC. “But he’s also been able to bring out what people feel about their government.”

The cost of an anti-Trump campaign would be daunting: Reshaping opinions about Mr. Trump, a candidate with universal name recognition and a knack for garnering free airtime and column inches, could cost as much as $20 million. A sustained campaign aimed at Fox News viewers could cost $2 million a week, one Republican consultant working for a rival candidate estimated, while a more targeted effort, aimed at Iowa caucus-goers later this fall, would require as much as $10 million.

And there is no certainty of success: A group identified with the Republican establishment would risk ending up in a war with Mr. Trump, while a new group-- such as a political nonprofit to which other donors and organizations could secretly funnel cash-- would play into Mr. Trump’s comments about lobbyists and corporations scheming to prop up his rivals. Mr. Trump also has begun to preview such attacks.

This week, he lambasted both Karl Rove, a Crossroads co-founder, and the Club for Growth, which he said once asked him for a million-dollar contribution. (A club spokesman said that Mr. Trump asked for the meeting with Mr. McIntosh, which took place in May.)

“Many Super Pacs, funded by groups that want total control over their candidate, are being formed to ‘attack’ Trump,” Mr. Trump said Tuesday on Twitter. “Remember when u see them.”

...While many Republican leaders and donors are convinced that something must be done to stop the billionaire Manhattan developer, few seem ready to take him on directly, given Mr. Trump’s tendency to counterattack viciously.

Allies of Mr. Bush, arguing that Mr. Trump helps the former Florida governor by stealing voters and attention from other anti-establishment candidates, remark that perhaps donors to Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, or Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, might take the lead in financing a Trump takedown.

Mr. Walker’s supporters, in turn, suggest that the work might best be handled by a super PAC with plenty of cash but an underperforming candidate-- like Rick Perry, the former Texas governor.

“Everybody’s got different agendas and different conflicts,” said Austin Barbour, an adviser to a group of super PACs, known as Opportunity and Freedom, that have raised more than $17 million to back Mr. Perry, whose own campaign is floundering and bankrupt. “Our No. 1 priority is to go take this fight to support Governor Perry. There’s a lot of time here.”

The biggest outside groups not tied to a specific candidate-- the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the political network of Charles and David Koch and the Rove-founded American Crossroads-- are for now staying clear, although the Koch organizations have conspicuously snubbed Mr. Trump in several ways, declining to invite him to their policy forums or give him access to the network’s state-of-the-art voter database.

Of all the real contenders-- so not Lindsey Graham or Rick Perry-- Jeb Bush has been the target of the most vicious of Trump's assaults. Although it's against Graham's low-energy nature, eventually he had no choice but to push back. Friday morning he was on ABC News asserting that Trump wants to "insult his way to the presidency." Greg Sargent picked up on it yesterday and wondered whether Republican voters can rise above Trumpism.
Jeb Bush’s claim last year that illegal immigration is an “act of love” continues to be a seminal moment that perfectly captured the split among Republicans over the issue. In those comments, Bush essentially challenged fellow Republicans to see illegal immigrants as more than mere lawbreakers, arguing that their plight is a morally complex one and that they have something positive to contribute to American life. This laid bare the fundamental divide among Republicans, between those who see illegal immigrants in the same terms as Bush does and are thus willing to accept some sort of compromise around legalization, and those who cannot accept legalization under any conditions (or until some undefined state of border security perfection is attained first). It’s worth noting that Trump has also mocked these “act of love” comments.

Bush has in some ways proven disappointing on immigration, retreating on the solutions he’s willing to embrace, and inexplicably defending the term “anchor babies.” But his comments today suggest he is sticking to the same overall message he sounded last year. The difference now is that this comes at a moment when Trumpism is on the rise among GOP primary voters, precisely because (or so it appears, at least in part) of Trump’s intolerant, exclusionary message, which is essentially that immigrants are the cause of American workers’ suffering. One poll shows that nearly half of Iowa GOP caucus-goers agree with his call for mass deportations, and that three quarters of Trump backers in Iowa do; and multiple national polls have shown majorities of Republicans agree with some of Trump’s most base pronouncements on immigration.

Yet Bush is pressing on. Either he thinks he can win this argument with Trump even among some of those who are drawn to Trump’s siren song, or he is betting that more GOP primary voters (nationally, or in the states that make up his path to the nomination) will agree with him than with his nemesis. Or possibly Bush thinks he just has to wait for Trump-ism to burn out. Whatever the explanation, right now Bush seems to be issuing a challenge to Republican voters to rise above Trumpism, and it appears that Bush himself views what he’s doing in those terms.
Good luck with that, especially if the Republican base supporting Trump is more like these guys in the video than like... oh, say, Las Vegas gambling magnate and billionaire Steve Wynn.

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At 3:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Will "Mafia-connected" Trump get a pair of Mafia-issue cement booties!
Stay tuned.

John Puma


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