The Republican presidential front-runner, Donald Trump, told MSNBC’s Chris Matthews Wednesday that he would “punish women” who get an abortion if it’s outlawed. Needless to say, the outcry has been quick, fierce, relentless, and bi-partisan. Those trying to elect Republicans to the Senate, Congress, and state legislatures are in shock. This is not what the Republican Party needs right now given the fact they already have a problem with women voters.
This remark notwithstanding, Republican Ted Cruz is actually more hard line on abortion than Trump. He will outlaw it in all cases including rape and incest. One of his campaign co-chairs, Troy Newman, has written that a society following the wishes of God would execute abortion providers. Another Cruz supporter, Pastor Kevin Swanson, has openly called for execution of homosexuals, saying the Bible commands it. Punishment is one thing, execution is quite another.
With the Republican Convention just three and a half months away, speculation is no longer over whether Republicans can win the White House. Instead, the talk is whether Republicans can even hold Congress. In fact, pundits are asking whether the Republican Party itself might implode this summer. Can the GOP survive Trump and Cruz? Will Reince Priebus go down in history as the chairman who oversaw the destruction of the Party of Lincoln.
The Republican brand has been severely damaged during this year’s presidential primary. After two consecutive defeats by Barack Obama, GOP chairman Reince Priebus paid consultants to do an “autopsy” on the Republican Party. The conclusion was that the Republican Party needed to change its appeal to minorities and women. That would require changing its policies and its messaging. Changing policies was out of the question, according to Priebus, but he said the GOP would remake its image with women and minorities instead. But, something happened to that goal on the way to the White House
Donald Trump announced his candidacy in June and his presence changed the entire race. In his opening speech, Trump said that Mexicans were murders and rapists and he would build a wall to close the borders, and get Mexico to pay for it. Later, he said he would go after Muslim Americans, closing Mosques and even banning Muslims from entering the nation. He began rising in the polls, and very soon became the front runner. Trump has led the race since July.
Trump’s Republican opponents tried to out-Trump Trump by making equally radical statements of their own. What they found was that Trump could be imitated but not outdone. One by one, Republican candidates dropped out leaving Trump standing alone at the top challenged only by Ted Cruz. Despite his controversial statements and high negative approval ratings, Trump is still the Republican frontrunner unless this latest outrage takes him down.
The debates themselves were disastrous for the Republican brand. They featured name calling, insults, vulgarity, candidates all talking at the same time, and were short on issues. Priebus and the establishment RNC knew something needed to change. They talked Mitt Romney into putting together a stop Trump organization. When Marco Rubio dropped out,, they shifted their support to Ted Cruz, who a few months ago was anathema to the Republican establishment.
This may not hurt Trump in the primaries. Most Republicans and nearly all Republican candidates are anti-abortion. Republican candidates talk about eliminating abortion in every speech. It plays well in their base, and Trump knows it.
Republicans running for office in the states are distancing themselves from the top of their ticket. It remains to be seen if voters will punish the entire Party, or just its Republican presidential candidate. It is certain, however, the Independent voters will abandon the GOP in massive numbers. This could be 1964 or 1976 all over again when Democrats swept offices nationwide from president all the way down ballot to dog catcher. Will 2016 be another one of those elections? Too soon to tell. We have not seen the last from Donald Trump.