We’re four debates in and three months away from the Iowa caucuses and nothing seems to be slowing down The Donald’s lead in polling, with fellow Washington outsider Ben Carson right behind him. Guy has detailed the wide range of absurd comments Trump’s made and things he’s done on the campaign trail, from giving out Sen. Graham’s cell phone number on live television to the latest: likening Carson’s pathology to that of a child molester—really. So, it’s no surprise that there’s “anxiety bordering on panic among Republican elites” with regard to Trump—and Carson’s—longevity in this race.
Party leaders and donors fear that nominating either man would have negative ramifications for the GOP ticket up and down the ballot, virtually ensuring a Hillary Rodham Clinton presidency and increasing the odds that the Senate falls into Democratic hands.
The party establishment is paralyzed. Big money is still on the sidelines. No consensus alternative to the outsiders has emerged from the pack of governors and senators running, and there is disagreement about how to prosecute the case against them. Recent focus groups of Trump supporters in Iowa and New Hampshire commissioned by rival campaigns revealed no silver bullet.
In normal times, the way forward would be obvious. The wannabes would launch concerted campaigns, including television attack ads, against the front-runners. But even if the other candidates had a sense of what might work this year, it is unclear whether it would ultimately accrue to their benefit. Trump’s counterpunches have been withering, while Carson’s appeal to the base is spiritual, not merely political. If someone was able to do significant damage to them, there’s no telling to whom their supporters would turn, if anyone.
Except perhaps Mitt Romney, to the particularly desperate GOP establishment.
According to other Republicans, some in the party establishment are so desperate to change the dynamic that they are talking anew about drafting Romney — despite his insistence that he will not run again. Friends have mapped out a strategy for a late entry to pick up delegates and vie for the nomination in a convention fight, according to the Republicans who were briefed on the talks, though Romney has shown no indication of reviving his interest.
This seems unlikely, but then again, if you told anyone a year ago that Trump would be the Republican frontrunner they’d probably say you’re crazy.
Life is stranger than fiction. Looks like we’ll have to wait and see.