- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 6, 2016

The fracture in the GOP is real and runs deep, according to activists at the Conservative Political Action Conference, who questioned whether the party can reach any kind of consensus on big issues of principle, policy or strategy.

The battle lines are roughly drawn between those who want to defend the GOP as a force for good in politics and the only way to stop Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, and those who say that the party’s leaders have betrayed the voters too often.

“I think the reality is that there is a civil war happening in our party right now,” said Katie Packer Gage, who was deputy campaign manager for Mitt Romney in 2012. “People that are ignoring the fact that there’s such disagreement are being naive.”

Ms. Gage founded Our Principles PAC, designed specifically to stop front-runner Donald Trump from gaining the nomination. The PAC is funding anti-Trump ads around the country, criticizing him for his racial policies and scamming the American public with the now-defunct Trump University. The PAC is focusing in on winner-take-all Florida, where, if Mr. Trump is victorious on March 15, his path to the nomination will be all but inevitable.

If Mr. Trump’s momentum isn’t blunted before then, Ms. Gage doesn’t see a way the party can coalesce around him in November.

“We have created an environment where we have a candidate who is the front-runner for the Republican nomination who is very clearly not conservative,” said Ms. Gage. “On top of that, he’s a big con man.”

Chuck Smith, a Trump supporter, disagrees, arguing politicians and the professional political class are the real con artists.

“These politicians come to us only in October or November, tell us ‘Vote for us, and as soon as we get both Houses of Congress, we’re going to do all these amazing things,’ and then they get there — and nothing. And they were supposed to be true Republicans,” said Mr. Smith.

Mr. Trump’s candidacy inspired Mr. Smith’s own — to run for attorney general in Virginia.

“I can’t sit on the sidelines and watch people do something I can do better,” he said. “Doing the same thing that we’ve been doing for over 100 years and expecting a different result is not going to make it. We need to change voices, we need to change shifts.”

Mr. Smith likes the fact Mr. Trump is self-funding, and therefore not owned by the professional political class.

“Because Trump self-funds, the donor class has no control, no strength, so they’re trying to stop him,” Mr. Smith said. “The Republican Party leadership will kill themselves before they allow this man to win, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Then we can get people in government who are going to represent rather than control.”

The Club for Growth and several other anti-Trump organizations like Ms. Gage’s are running advertisements slamming the front-runner, and Mr. Romney himself has come out against the business mogul.

In a speech last week, Mr. Romney stoked the idea of a brokered convention as a way to thwart a Trump presidency. A brokered convention is where no candidate reaches the magic number of 1,237 delegates to become the presumed nominee. If Florida Senator Marco Rubio and Ohio Gov. John Kasich win their home states, it’s a mathematical possibility.

In a brokered convention, state delegates vote repeatedly until one candidate reaches the 1,237 threshold. After the first vote, delegates are no longer bound to their candidate. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas warned about such a scenario during his speech at CPAC, saying it would lead to a “voter revolt” and is not the right solution to repair the Republican Party.

“Anytime you hear someone talking about a brokered convention, it is the Washington establishment in a fevered frenzy. They are really frustrated because all their chosen candidates, their golden children, the voters keep rejecting,” Mr. Cruz said. “So they seize on this plan of a brokered convention, and the D.C. power brokers will drop someone in who is exactly to the liking of the Washington establishment. If that would happen, we would have a manifest revolt on our hands all across this country.”

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