As an American in Bahrain, I have been closely following the US elections. A month ago Donald Trump appeared to have nine fingers of his famously large hands on the Republican nomination for November’s presidential election. If he had started to build bridges with some of the many groups he had offended he might have secured his grip on that prize by now. He has not, and his campaign is in peril.
Trump rarely follows conventional political wisdom, which would now require him to craft a broad conservative coalition. Instead he has chosen to upset even more of the electorate, and giving offence has consequences. Trump looks increasingly unlikely to reach the Republican convention with enough delegates to claim the nomination outright. In that event Republican power-brokers risk tearing their party into two if they decide to promote Cruz, John Kasich, the Ohio governor, or another candidate who will almost certainly have won fewer votes, fewer states and fewer delegates that Trump as a contender in a “brokered” convention. A large part of the Republican base will be furious – just as a similarly large faction will be outraged if, on the back of winning little more than 35 per cent of primary season votes, Trump is allowed to represent the party in November.
Such a scenario bodes ill for party unity but from the chaos a plausible candidate could yet emerge. If a non-Trump candidate is selected, his only chance of keeping the Republican coalition together will be to embrace the positions that Trump has got right over the past eight months. Poor Americans should not have their entitlements threatened because of Republicans’ readiness to finance tax cuts for the wealthy. The Republican war on Planned Parenthood looks like a war on contraception and, therefore, women. And voters back the small ‘c’ conservative case for caution in the use of military aggression abroad.
A post-Trump Republican contender could actually be a better servant of party – and a more formidable candidate in November – if he recognised that the Donald did get some things right.
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