- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 30, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Donald Trump has been losing ground in the national polls because he’s losing support among Republicans.

Mrs. Clinton is now edging out Mr. Trump by 5 percentage points, according to a Real Clear Politics average of polls. Just a few months ago, Mr. Trump had a slight advantage.

According to the Fox News poll released Wednesday, 51 percent of Republicans would rather have “someone else” as their nominee than Mr. Trump. A Washington Post poll showed only 77 percent of Republicans were behind him, compared to 85 percent in the same poll a month earlier.

So why is Mr. Trump losing the GOP after winning the nomination?

You saw a brief moment of consolidation after Mr. Trump clinched the nomination with his win in Indiana and with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz dropping out. Weeks after the victory, some within the GOP establishment started coming around to the realization that their voters had elected Mr. Trump, and they’d have to deal with it or the party would fall apart.

Many like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus pledged their support behind Mr. Trump. There was a slow trickle of endorsements by both the GOP donor class and eventually from some former rivals like Florida Sen. Marco Rubio – who said he would vote for Mr. Trump.

At the same time, Mr. Trump’s polls were inching up against Mrs. Clinton, giving others in the GOP the encouragement they needed to come forward. For a moment, it looked like Mr. Trump was going to be able to pull the party together. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan threw in his endorsement after a several week long courtship with the businessman.

Mr. Trump put together a solid, conservative list of Supreme Court justices. He met evangelical leaders. He got the surprise endorsement of the NRA.

Then he attacked Judge Gonzalo Curiel. It was the single biggest mistake in Mr. Trump’s campaign – where he took the focus off the American people and what he would do for them – and instead focused the attention on himself, his business, and attacking a judge for bias because of his heritage.

It wasn’t particularly uncharacteristic of Mr. Trump (he had, after-all made several similar comments in February) but it gave an excuse for every Republican still on the fence about his candidacy to withdrawal. And, now with only two real candidates in the presidential race, the mainstream media time to exploit.

Instead of having to write a week-long of stories about the State Departments damning IG report on Mrs. Clinton’s email server, they could continue peppering Republicans in office about what they thought about Mr. Trump, and live cover Mr. Trump’s rallies, where he continued his attacks against Mr. Curiel.

The narratives coming out of the press were merciless, with daily stories questioning: “Who will be the first to un-endorse Trump?” or “Trump’s attack on a federal judge is an open appeal to racism.”

The storyline rejuvenated the #NeverTrump crowd, who after being unable to field a third-party candidate, looked like they were on the verge of extinction. Now many from the troupe were being asked to give scathing quotes about Mr. Trump, that were often recycled by Democratic pundits and Mrs. Clinton herself in fundraising material and promotion.

I believe Mr. Trump, since dropping his attack against Mr. Curiel, has had several good weeks on the campaign trail. But the tsunami of bad media has been overwhelming, and the renewed effort among those in the GOP against him has been disheartening.

Mr. Trump’s supporters have been called uneducated, xenophobic, racist, and even their Christianity has even been questioned by others within their own party. Is there any doubt why fewer Republicans would want to identify with him in an official survey?

Let’s take this one step further.

Mr. Trump has been called all kind of names, by both GOP elites and the mainstream media, since he entered the race one year ago in June. After he beat 16 other candidates, fairly and squarely – without the establishment’s help – why would he now go to them begging for their advice? Shouldn’t it be the other way around?

At this point, I’m not sure the #NeverTrump crowd can be persuaded. I also know Mr. Trump will lose without them. To win a general election you need more than 77 percent of your base – more like 90 percent. Then he needs to start picking off Independents and Democrats.

I’m frustrated because I don’t want to lose. Will Mr. Trump be the next Ronald Reagan? Probably not. But even if we’re unsure with about 50 percent of his agenda, we know Mrs. Clinton’s – to create a weak entitlement state, complete with safe-spaces, higher taxes, and national security scandal to boot.

I don’t believe we as a nation can afford another four years of a progressive agenda.

Mr. Trump can’t and won’t stop being Mr. Trump. Republicans needs to get over that, and get behind him (or at least stop talking bad about him!) – or get honest. For if you don’t get behind him, your real goal is to blow up the GOP – you’d rather have a loss in November to preserve your own sanctimonious ideology than a united party.

But the sad truth is – you need us too. I’m not going to tell you to get out of my party, nor should you tell me to vacate. If the GOP ever wants to win again, (including in 2020 – which I know many #NeverTrumpers are now looking at), it needs a majority coalition that includes (gasp!) more moderate Republicans, alongside the social and fiscal conservatives.

Mr. Trump may not run again, but Trumpkins aren’t going away. You’re going to need to deal with us.

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