The anti-Trump wing of the GOP said that if the field winnowed, Trump would be finished. Well, he’s still winning, as this same cohort is still debating whether to fully back the conservative (Cruz) or establishment (Kasich) alternative to the billionaire real estate magnate. Sen. Marco Rubio was knocked out after Trump destroyed him in Florida. Now, there seems to be more of an effort to deprive Trump of the delegates he needs to win the nomination outright. But that’s an issue since Republican voters really don’t want to see a brutal fight when the party descends into Cleveland for the nominating convention in July, according to a new CNN/ORC poll (via CNN):
The poll finds little appetite for replacing the delegate leader and front-runner with another candidate at the convention or through a third-party run, but most of those opposed to Trump's candidacy continue to pine for another option.
With the field whittled to just three candidates, 47% of Republicans say they'd most like to see Trump win their party's nomination, about the same as the 49% who said they would be most likely to support him in February.
While the overall findings suggest few Republicans want to replace their party's delegate leader with someone else, those views vary widely based on whether a voter prefers Trump or not.
Six-in-10 Republican voters overall say that if no candidate wins a majority of delegates to the Republican convention through the primaries and caucuses, delegates should vote for the candidate who had the most support through those votes. That figure stands at 82% among Trump backers, but just 40% among those who do not back Trump.
Most Republicans say Kasich should end his run for the nomination now that he cannot win a majority of delegates in the primaries (70% overall say so), but that sentiment is even stronger among Trump's backers. More than 8-in-10 Trump supporters, 84%, say Kasich should drop out of the race, but among those who aren't backing Trump, that figure dips to 58%.
Just 35% overall say they want to see another Republican run as a third party candidate if Trump wins the Republican nomination. Among non-Trump backers, however, 51% want to see another Republican get in the ring as a third party candidate. The non-Trump supporters opposed to such a move say they feel that way more because it would lead to a Democratic win (38%) than because they would be comfortable with Trump leading the Republican ticket (10%).
One thing Trump's supporters and those who support other candidates can agree on: Broad majorities in both groups say the party's nominee should be one of the three remaining candidates, even if none of them capture those 1,237 delegates.
To make matters worse for the anti-Trump crowd, a new Monmouth poll indicated that many Republicans are having their “come to Jesus” moment with Trump, though there is a silver lining for those Republicans who cannot believe Trump’s continued electoral success (via Politico) [emphasis mine]:
A majority of Republican and Republican-leaning voters believe the party should unite behind Donald Trump at a contested convention, according to a national Monmouth University poll released Wednesday.
Trump has suggested his supporters would riot if he were to go into the convention just shy of the 1,237 mark and not leave as the nominee. He also predicted his voters would sit out the general election if another nominee were to emerge from the convention.
But 43 percent of Trump supporters said that if someone else were nominated in that scenario, they would still vote for the GOP nominee in November, while 27 percent said they wouldn’t vote in the presidential election if Trump weren't the nominee. Just 7 percent would support the Democratic nominee, and 13 percent would back a third-party candidate.
So, maybe uniting behind Ted Cruz might not be such a bad plan after all. He certainly has a shot, whereas John Kasich has no shot whatsoever to be the 2016 Republican nominee. During CBS’ Face The Nation last weekend, The New York Times’ Jonathan Martin discussed the other option by the anti-Trump wing, which is, ironically, mounting a conservative third party challenge; one that some think would seal the deal for Hillary Clinton in the general election. Yet, Martin also mentioned that due to ballot access, this would a) be the Hail Mary of all Hail Marys and b) another arduous task given that this crowd would have to leech onto other third parties, specifically the Libertarian (or maybe the Constitutionalist) Party and convince them to allow the “never Trump” folk a political apparatus to execute a campaign. It’s a very daunting task.