Trump’s clinch throws GOP insiders into disarray
By Evan Lips | May 4, 2016, 18:01 EST
When Ted Cruz withdrew Tuesday night, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus took to Twitter to proclaim Donald Trump the GOP’s presumptive presidential nominee and urge party loyalists to back the Manhattan billionaire.
— Reince Priebus (@Reince) May 4, 2016
On Wednesday, amid the fallout of Trump’s victory in the Indiana primary and the withdrawal by his remaining rivals, including Ohio Gov. John Kasich later Wednesday, Republicans appeared more divided than ever. A quick scan of social media such as Twitter.com and Facebook.com showed that Priebus’s call for unity wasn’t warmly received by conservatives.
With Trump’s Indiana victory appearing certain early Wednesday evening, Michael Reagan, son of conservative icon and former President Ronald Reagan, used Twitter to fire off a series of pointed public messages directed at Priebus and others.
— Michael Reagan (@ReaganWorld) May 3, 2016
Later, once Priebus called for the party to unite behind a Trump presidential bid in order to prevent former First Lady Hillary Clinton from returning to the White House, this time as president, popular conservative personalities unleashed a torrent of statements ripping their own party.
At the exact same minute Priebus made his plea, Washington Examiner Managing Editor Philip Klein blasted out a Tweet announcing he was abandoning the party:
I have officially de-registered as a Republican. pic.twitter.com/DjRI21Oyvx
— Philip Klein (@philipaklein) May 4, 2016
Ben Howe, a contributing editor for the conservative RedState.com blog, took his displeasure with the party one step further, tweeting out a pro-Clinton Twitter hashtag:
— Ben Howe (@BenHowe) May 3, 2016
On Wednesday morning, RedState published a formal response to Priebus’s call.
“To say that there needs to be unity around a candidate who has shown almost zero interest in the principles of conservatism or liberty is absurd,” wrote Jay Caruso, a contributing editor. “To say people should rally around a man who has spent the better part of his life cozying up to and supporting Democrats is to ask people to betray their most closely held beliefs and values.”
On Wednesday afternoon, the National Review’s David A. French hammered Priebus as well.
“Reince, you should resign rather than spending one more ounce of personal energy supporting a reprehensible man,” French wrote, in addition to describing Priebus’s call for unity as “nauseating.”
The backlash against Priebus shows no signs of letting up.
You all should do that. But I won’t be one of you all. https://t.co/JYHftzDvno
— Steve Deace (@SteveDeaceShow) May 4, 2016
Mark Salter, a former top aide to 2008 Republican presidential nominee and current Arizona Sen. John McCain, also chimed in:
the GOP is going to nominate for President a guy who reads the National Enquirer and thinks it’s on the level. I’m with her.
— Mark Salter (@MarkSalter55) May 3, 2016
On television Wednesday morning, Priebus, in an interview with CNN, was asked to respond to criticism from prominent Republicans like Salter and conservative radio host Steve Deace:
— Sopan Deb (@SopanDeb) May 4, 2016
While saying he expects party fractures to heal over the next few months, Priebus also stuck to his assertions that it is time to rally behind Trump. He told the Politico.com news site that a Trump presidency could be good for the future of the party, prompting further online criticism.
— Michael Cohen (@speechboy71) May 4, 2016
Meanwhile, Clinton has begun to ignore Bernie Sanders, the Vermont Senator who beat her in Indiana by 5 percentage points. Despite the loss, Clinton remains mathematically assured of winning her party’s crown, given her stranglehold over so-called superdelegates to the nominating convention.
Clinton, who is now just 178 pledged delegates away from locking up the nomination with 1,159 still available, appears to be trying to cash in on the widespread distaste for Trump. On Wednesday afternoon, her campaign unveiled an anti-Trump ad that features statements from prominent Republicans like Cruz, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the 2012 GOP standard bearer, all denouncing a Trump candidacy:
“President Trump” is a dangerous proposition.
Mitt Romney, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio agree.https://t.co/fUkISvgaXC
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) May 4, 2016
For his part, Trump dismissed his critics even as he vowed to unify the party, speaking on NBC’s “Today” show Wednesday morning. For internal dissenters, he bitingly bid them good riddance, the Associated Press reported.
“Those people can go away and maybe come back in eight years after we served two terms,” Trump said on the the network news show. “Honestly, there are some people I really don’t want.”
At least a few prominent Republicans spoke up in favor of the presumptive nominee, including Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin.
“Our first and foremost goal is to elect a conservative, pro-business, strong on national defense, a man who will stand behind our freedoms and our rights, and that person is Donald Trump,” Fallin said, according to AP. “It is not Hillary Clinton.”
The former reality TV star has largely turned his focus to Clinton, even while maintaining his theme about back-room dealing in national politics:
I would rather run against Crooked Hillary Clinton than Bernie Sanders and that will happen because the books are cooked against Bernie!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 4, 2016