Washington Republicans, panicky over the prospect of Donald Trump as their nominee, are discussing ways to dump him with Ted Cruz the most likely alternative. They're probably tilting at windmills.
These discussions haven't involved the highest levels of the party: House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus. And even the most zealous anti-Trump Republicans, who include prominent strategists, lawyers and elected officials, acknowledge that the latest dump-Trump conversation doesn't have a much better chance to prevail than previous efforts that failed.
Trump has enough committed delegates to win the nomination at the Cleveland convention next month based on the current party rules. But parties have broad discretion to change their rules. Republicans could, for example, allow delegates to vote their consciences, irrespective of how their state or congressional district voted.
In the unlikely event they attempt a rule change -- Priebus would like a harmonious convention and would probably resist -- it would create a firestorm among Trump supporters. The most likely option for the convention would be Cruz, who finished second in the primaries and remains a favorite of party's right wing.
The other escape, these politicos note, might be to persuade Trump to drop out by warning of a humiliating loss in November. That appears to be an even more remote scenario for a candidate with a huge ego and contempt for other politicians.
But the presumptive nominee's behavior during the past few weeks has rattled legions of Republicans. He insulted the governor of New Mexico, the highest-ranking Latino woman in the party, and leveled a racist rant at a federal judge who is overseeing a fraud case against the so-called Trump University, now discontinued. Trump said the judge, Gonzalo Curiel, was biased against him because of his Mexican heritage. Curiel was born, reared and educated in Indiana; his parents were born in Mexico.
It's now apparent that the confrontational Trump of the primaries -- full of insults and invective -- won't become a more "presidential" candidate in the general election. This and the possibility of other scandals and embarrassing controversies concerning a candidate who has not been vetted in other election campaigns is what petrifies many Republicans.
Trump supporters say he's weathered all sorts of supposedly near-death experiences and transcends conventional rules, noting that he's running close to even with Hillary Clinton in general election polls.
If that persists, any dump-Trump movement is bound to fail. But if he starts to drop in these polls it may make an interesting several weeks before Cleveland, which commences July 18. The slogan "Better to lose with Cruz," could be revived.