Coming out swinging on Thursday was former presidential candidate, and Massachusetts governor, Mitt Romney who said, in a speech at the University of Utah, that America’s future would be jeopardized if Donald Trump were elected president. “The only serious policy proposals that deal with the broad range of national challenges we confront today, come from Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and John Kasich,” Romney said of Trump’s GOP rivals. “One of these men should be our nominee.”
Pulling no punches Romney also said, “His is not the temperament of a stable, thoughtful leader. His imagination must not be married to real power,” Romney said. He also branded Trump as “a phony, a fraud” whose “promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University,” referring to the lawsuit that the school faces.
On NBC’s “Today”, Trump fought back, Thursday, and said, Romney was “a stiff” who “didn’t know what he was doing” as the party’s candidate in 2012 and blew a chance to beat President Barack Obama. “People are energized by what I’m saying” in the campaign and turning out in remarkable numbers to vote.
According to the Associated Press, this was a marked departure from four years ago, when “the two men stood side by side in Las Vegas, with Trump saying it was a “real honor and privilege” to endorse Romney’s White House bid. Accepting, Romney said it was a “delight” to have Trump on his side and praised him for ability to “understand how our economy works and to create jobs for the American people.”
Most of the fireworks have come from establishment Republican leaders, many who have been the standard bearers, be they winners or losers, and have been pulling the levers of the party for decades, but who have also faced mounting criticism from younger Republican voters, who aligned themselves with the so-called “Tea Party” movement. They have called for a more aggressive conservatism. In particular that they felt that enough was not done to stop legislative actions by President Barack Obama, especially the Affordable Care Act, often known as Obamacare. This led, in no small measure, to the defeat and resignation, of the former Speaker of the House, John Boehner.
Now comes Trump with his firebrand conservatism, replete with seemingly sexual innuendos, misogynistic terms, calls for banning Muslims, and other controversial statements and plans. All of which has left Republican Party leadership in near panic at the thought that Trump’s statements might cost them the White House. As one RNC official said, “All of what we hear is that this is another vote for Hillary Clinton.”
If all of this comes at the expense of party unity, then Trump and his juggernaut, fresh from the South Carolina primary, and cutting a swath across this week’s Super Tuesday, he seems destined to rip the traditional fabric of the GOP apart, as it attempts to deal with his candidacy. This is especially true as it tries to be more inclusive of racial minorities, especially blacks, and women voters. The list also includes independent voters, many of whom are allowed to vote in some primary elections, and whose votes can tip a slim margin into a victory.
While factionalism is hardly unknown in American politics, even since the days of President George Washington, who spoke out forcefully against them, this time the dissension of the party of Abraham Lincoln faces a severe threat. As The Economist noted, “Polls show that 46% of Americans of voting age have a “very unfavourable” opinion of Mr Trump, which suggests his chances of winning a general election are slight. But Mr Trump’s political persona is more flexible than that of any professional politician, which means he can take it in any direction he wants to. And whoever wins the nomination for either party will have a decent chance of becoming America’s next president: the past few elections have been decided by slim margins in a handful of states.” A sobering thought and one that reflects Romney’s condemnation.
Noting that if an economic recession, or an indictment of Clinton might turn the tide in favor of Trump, then Republican party leaders have good reason to worry, the editors also said that “Mr Trump has prospered by inciting hatred and violence. He is so unpredictable that the thought of him anywhere near high office is terrifying. He must be stopped.”
Romney’s intentions were more than simple hyperbole, and as The Los Angeles Times noted, “his strategy would prevent Trump from gaining a majority of party delegates on the first ballot at the nominating convention this summer. If no one wins on the first ballot, convention delegates would be released to pick any candidate, allowing them to build new coalitions — or even to choose a compromise candidate like Romney.” The strategy could backfire if many Trump supporters would become alienated, even further than they are, from Republican party established leadership.
“I think the party can survive Donald Trump as long as we don’t lose our heart and soul,” Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said in an interview with several reporters Wednesday in the Capitol. “We can’t survive if we embrace those things about Mr. Trump that put him outside of the American mainstream. We can survive with him being the nominee and losing.”