Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told CBS News this morning that any Republican who refuses to support Donald Trump as the party's presumptive nominee is being "disrespectful" to GOP primary voters and effectively assisting Hillary Clinton's campaign. He elaborated on this point with the Fox & Friends crew, responding to Bill Kristol's third party machinations by noting that Trump won the nomination the "good old fashioned way," adding that "we ought to respect the wishes of Republican voters. They've chosen him as the candidate." Conceding that both Trump and Clinton are unpopular, McConnell urged center-right to "look at the alternative" to a Trump win -- namely, a Hillary presidency, which he said would be a repeat of the last eight years. "Anything that divides the right-of-center world is not helpful, and I don't think it's a good idea to do anything that helps elect Hillary Clinton," he said. Watch:
The Kentuckian is more or less echoing the words of Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, who is telling his colleagues that the time has come to get in line. Back in March, McConnell made headlines by suggesting on CNN that some GOP Senators in tough re-election fights would "drop [Trump] like a hot rock" back home. House Speaker Paul Ryan, who has prominently resisted endorsing the brash billionaire, has also reportedly given members in difficult districts carte blanche permission to do what it takes to win, vis-a-vis their treatment of Trump. For his part, the nominee-in-waiting's campaign seems to understand that not all Republican districts are monolithic, and that some members of the party will need to distance themselves from him in order to prevail. "If Senate Republicans want to keep their distance from the campaign and avoid the candidate altogether, Manafort said, the campaign would not hold it against the vulnerable senators," CNN reported last week. In practice, however, Trump has evinced little tolerance for dissent, blasting away at Republicans who have criticized him, resurrecting barbs against vanquished opponents, and even ridiculing past adversaries who've come around to endorsing him. Asked about his propensity to lash out and potentially undermine the Republican healing process at his extremely combative press conference this afternoon, Trump affirmed that he'll continue to slam members of the party who don't support him. (By the way, while Sessions warns that Trump hold-outs within the party "won't remain in office," a new poll shows Speaker Ryan clinging to a 73-point lead over his Sarah Palin-backed primary opponent in Wisconsin). Meanwhile, even as many within the Republican coalition are rallying around Trump, achieving full party unity remains an elusive task in some cases:
Even as Donald Trump and Republican Party bosses diligently work Capitol Hill in hopes of bringing the party together after a fractious presidential primary, convention planners could still be looking at a block of empty seats for the July convention. A growing roster of senior GOP figures – from governors to senators to, most notably, nearly every living GOP presidential nominee – is vowing to skip the convention in Cleveland, despite the candidate starting to win over the rank-and-file...Of all the living Republican presidential nominees and former presidents, only Bob Dole is expected to attend – and even then, only “briefly,” for the purpose of catching a luncheon hosted by his law firm, a source told Fox News earlier this month. Former Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush have said they will not attend, as have 2008 nominee John McCain and 2012 nominee Mitt Romney...Others claim to be skipping in order to focus on their own election battles – some of those potentially made more challenging by Trump’s primary success.
A list compiled by Fox News and McClatchy features more than a dozen sitting GOP Senators, Governors and ex-presidents who say they'll sit Cleveland out. While "respecting the will of the voters" may be more of an open-and-shut, dispositive case for the official party apparatus, National Review's Jonah Goldberg has written on multiple occasions about how people of principle have no obligation to join any candidate's bandwagon simply because he or she is a party's nominee:
I am constantly amazed at how many people get really angry at anyone who says Trump’s voters are wrong. Yeah, I get it. They’re angry. Blah blah blah. But let me ask you something: How many times have you been justifiably angry in your own life yet still let your anger lead you to a bad decision? More important, nowhere in democratic theory is there support for the idea that voters have to be right just because there are large numbers of them. By that logic, I shouldn’t be “allowed” to say Obama’s voters were wrong, either. Socialism sucks, and that won’t change if a majority of Americans elect Bernie Sanders. Democracy says we must abide democratic choices, it does not say they are dispositive of fundamental questions. Indeed, the reason we have a Bill of Rights is that the founders recognized that voters could be very, very, very wrong...It’s time to throw in the towel, they say. Trump wasn’t my first choice either, but we’ve got to make the best of it. I get that, coming from voters. But my vote isn’t my vocation...my job is to tell the truth as I see it.
I'll leave you with Trump's response to Kristol's recent hints, about which the Weekly Standard editor now seems to be hedging a bit -- with Romney sources doubling down on "no way:"
If dummy Bill Kristol actually does get a spoiler to run as an Independent, say good bye to the Supreme Court!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 29, 2016