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September 22nd, 2019

Insight

A radical proposal for how Republicans could try to stop Donald Trump

Chris Cillizza

By Chris Cillizza

Published March 18, 2016

A group of Republican politicians and operatives gathered in Washington on Thursday to plot a way to stop Donald Trump. It was the latest in a series of such meetings over the past few days and weeks, almost always involving different actors and ending without any resolution or any sort of actual plan.

Let's assume - and I am not sure we should - that Trump CAN be stopped at this point as he marches toward the 1,237 delegates he needs to formally clinch the presidential nomination.

It's possible that the single worst way to bring Trump down is to hold a series of "secret" - and disparate - meetings in Washington among party elites that end without any plan. (Also worth noting: These "secret" meetings always leak out to the media. So they are, um, not all that secret.)

Let me propose something else.

Using 538's awesome congressional and gubernatorial endorsement tracker, I added the total number of governors, senators and House members who have backed one of the three remaining Republican candidates.

Ted Cruz has one senator (Mike Lee of Utah), three governors (Nikki Haley of South Carolina, Phil Bryant of Mississippi and Greg Abbott of Texas) and 27 House members on his side. John Kasich has two senators (Rob Portman of Ohio and Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma), two governors (Butch Otter of Idaho and Robert Bentley of Alabama) and seven House members. Trump has one senator (Jeff Sessions of Alabama), three governors (Rick Scott of Florida, Chris Christie of New Jersey and Paul LePage of Maine) and five House members.

Add them all up and you get this: Seven senators, eight governors and 39 House members have endorsed one of the final three Republican candidates. That's 13 percent of the 54 Republican senators, 26 percent of governors and 15 percent of the Republican members of the House.

That's a stunningly small number.

Consider what it might look like if two dozen Republican senators, 150 House members and 15 Republican governors appeared together at a news conference Monday to announce that they were supporting Cruz. And not only that, but that they also decided to wade into the race as a group to send a clear signal to their party and the country that Trump is simply a) not a real conservative and b) could cost the GOP downballot in ways that could set them back for years to come.

An endorsement here or there for Cruz or Kasich means absolutely nothing. Speaker Paul Ryan slapping down Trump for his talk of potential riots if he is not the nominee doesn't have a whole heck of a lot of impact either. But the sheer throw-weight of almost 200 elected Republican officials appearing together to wrap their arms around Cruz (and say "no" to Trump) would be genuinely powerful.

Of course, Trump would cast such as move as the last throes of the establishment's panic about the prospect of him being the party's standard-bearer. And he would be right. But he is already able to do the same thing every time a report of the latest "secret" meeting to stop him comes out. And unlike those largely pointless meetings, a massive show of establishment force would at least have the potential of changing the narrative around the race, even if only for a few days.

Notice the word "potential" in that last paragraph. I'm under no illusion that even if 200 Republican elected officials endorsed Cruz on Monday that, suddenly, Trump would be in deep trouble. He might not be. And probably wouldn't be given his pole position in the delegate fight. Plus, the ability to rally that many elected officials behind almost anything would make herding cats look like the easiest job in the world.

But desperate times demand desperate measures. Trump's place in the race is strong enough that to knock him off his spot requires significant risk-taking and, in the case of the scenario I outlined above, significant subsuming of egos.

Because of those egos - and the lack of a person (or people) able to rally the troops - the idea of a mass endorsement of Cruz almost certainly won't happen. But every time you hear word of another one of these "secret" meetings in which nothing is decided or resolved, think of the potential impact such a broad-scale endorsement might have.

Previously:


03/17/16: Trump haters had a very bad night on Tuesday
03/14/16: I was really impressed with something Donald Trump did in Thursday's debate: Discipline
03/11/16: Winners and losers from the 12th Republican presidential debate
03/07/16: Here's how Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz should have answered the 'will you support Trump' question
03/04/16: Winners and losers from the 11th Republican presidential debate
03/03/16: The Republican establishment waited too long to stop Donald Trump. Now they probably can't
03/02/16: Winners and losers from Super Tuesday
02/29/16: Why Donald Trump is remarkably dangerous to the Republican Party
02/29/16: 4 reasons why Chris Christie endorsed Donald Trump
02/26/16: Winners and losers from the 10th Republican presidential debate
02/24/16: Donald Trump is on course to win the 1,237 delegates he needs to be the GOP nominee
02/23/16: This Donald Trump explanation of his Iraq position is just so mind-boggling
02/22/16: Jeb Bush never really had a chance in the 2016 presidential race
02/18/16: Senate Republicans will never hold a Supreme Court vote this year. This poll shows why
02/17/16: South Carolina isn't Bush Country anymore
02/12/16: Winners and losers from the 6th Dem debate
02/10/16: Winners and losers from the New Hampshire primary
02/06/16: Winners and losers from the fifth Democratic presidential debate
01/29/16: Winners and losers from the 7th Republican presidential debate
01/27/16: Ranking the Republican 2016 field
01/25/16: Trump is the favorite to be the Republican nominee. Period
01/22/16: Who had the worst week in Washington? Hillary Clinton
01/18/16: Feeling bad for Jeb Bush
01/15/16: Winners and losers from the sixth Republican presidential debate
01/12/16: Here's exactly how Bernie Sanders can beat Hillary Clinton
01/11/16:The fantasy scenario that could become reality for Hillary
12/30/15: The five big lessons from a weirdly watchable year of politics
12/21/15: Winners and losers in the third Democratic presidential debate
12/16/15: Winners and losers from the 5th Republican presidential debate
12/16/15: Cruz, not Trump, looking like GOP favorite for 2016
12/04/15: Ted Cruz is the sleeping giant in the Republican race
11/24/15:Trump is leading an increasingly fact-free 2016 campaign
11/23/15: A ranking of GOP presidential candidates who can still make a case --- and the nominee
11/16/15: The remarkably unappealing anger of Donald Trump
11/11/15: Winners and losers from the fourth Republican debate
11/02/15: Jeb Bush says he still doesn't get why his terrible debate performance matters so much
10/29/15: Winners and losers from the third Republican presidential debate
10/22/15: Paul Ryan might be saving his party. But at what cost?
10/20/15: Six things we know Joe Biden is thinking
10/19/15: Who had the worst week in Washington? Lincoln Chafee
10/14/15: Winners and losers from the first Dem presidential debate

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