Saturday, October 8, 2016

After 'Lewd' Trump Comments, Republicans Scramble to Salvage Election

Sean Spicer, the RNC's chief strategist and communications director, denies it, but things clearly aren't looking good.

At WSJ, "GOP Scrambles to Salvage Election After Donald Trump's Latest Imbroglio":

A divided Republican Party descended into turmoil, as a startling chorus of GOP candidates and officials repudiated their own presidential candidate and scrambled to find personal paths to political survival just a month before Election Day.

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus on Saturday told party officials to redirect funds away from nominee Donald Trump to down-ballot candidates, according to an official informed of the decision. In practical terms, the party will be working to mobilize voters who support GOP House and Senate candidates regardless of their position on the presidential race.

That means the RNC will push Floridians who support both Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio to vote. Before today, the RNC wouldn’t have sought to turn out Clinton voters, leaving split-ticket voters for Senate campaigns to target.

The release on Friday of a 2005 video of Mr. Trump making lewd and degrading comments about women has led to recriminations from all corners of the GOP. Mr. Trump’s comments were denounced by the party chairman, the speaker of the house, a squadron of former GOP presidential candidates and a flood of members of Congress.

Unprecedented pressure has mounted on Mr. Trump to step aside, although there appears to be no easy off-ramp for the party that nominated the most unconventional political outsider in its history less than three months ago.  Mr. Trump told the Wall Street Journal he won’t quit the race.

When 2008 Republican nominee John McCain on Saturday withdrew his endorsement of Mr. Trump, that left 1996 nominee Bob Dole as the only living GOP nominee backing Mr. Trump.

In an interview, Mr. Dole said he is still supportive of the party’s nominee. “It was 11 years ago. He shouldn’t have said it, but there’s nothing he can do about it except to do well in the debate,” he said. “I think he can overcome a lot of this in the debate tomorrow night.”

The speed and breadth of the abandonment of Mr. Trump’s candidacy shocked some long-time party members and exposed a shattered party without a clear path forward.

“Our party is in its deepest crisis since Watergate in 1974,” said Ron Nehring, former chairman of the California Republican Party, referring to the mid-term election when the resignation of then-President Richard M. Nixon led to a Democratic landslide. “It’s compounded by the fact that it doesn’t matter whether Donald Trump were to bow out. It’s too late to change the candidate on the ballot.”

The immediate consequence of the RNC’s decision on allocating resources is a halt to the party’s mail program so it can be redirected toward a new universe of voters, the official said. News of the mail program stopping was first reported by Politico. Mr. Priebus and top party strategist Sean Spicer didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Opinion polls across the country show a growing number of voters willing to back GOP congressional candidates and Mrs. Clinton. In Ohio, where Republican Sen. Rob Portman has endorsed Mr. Trump but declined to appear with him, the senator is leading his race by 15 percentage points in public opinion polls, while the presidential battle is basically tied. The RNC could increase the number of split-ticket voters by pushing Clinton supporters who back GOP Senate candidates to the polls.

Mr. Trump’s latest imbroglio is also widening a chasm between the party’s old guard and the legions of voters drawn to his anti-establishment message...
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