In a period of a few days when Donald Trump continued to attack the family of a fallen American soldier, Trump and his supporters groundlessly stoked fear that the election will be stolen from him, Clint Eastwood reappeared on the national political stage for the first time since he debated a chair to offer a bitter and grumpy defense of the GOP nominee as well as of his own racism, it is easy to overlook what might be the strangest Trump story of the week. It seems that Republican leaders are so concerned about Trump’s unhinged behavior and inability to exercise any political prudence whatsoever, that they are urging for a political intervention led by none other than Newt Gingrich and Rudolph Giuliani.
Asking Gingrich and Giuliani to intervene to make Trump a more measured and calm candidate is a little bit, actually a lot, like inviting the crack dealer on the corner over to help with an intervention for your drug addicted friend. Giuliani demonstrated in Cleveland last month that he is no longer America’s mayor but shares Trump’s apocalyptic view of America and less than even temperament. Gingrich who appears to be turning against the man whose ticket he once hoped to join was never known as a calming influence on anybody or anything.
The choice of Gingrich and Giuliani is astounding because they are uniquely temperamentally unfit for this task, but it also speaks to the extreme weakness of the current GOP leadership’s relationship with their party’s nominee for President. Gingrich and Giuliani are not exactly players in national politics or today’s Republican Party. Neither has won an election since the mid-1990s. The last time either of them woman election, Barack Obama was an obscure state senator and the US was just beginning to wake up to the threat posed by Y2K. Both of them have made unsuccessful bids for President in the intervening years, but neither were able to use those campaigns to springboard themselves back to relevance.
For the GOP to turn the task of trying to get Donald Trump to behave more reasonably and run a more effective campaign over to two people with as little influence inside the Republican Party as Gingrich and Giuliani is to concede the failure of the intervention before it has begun. This is one reason why it probably won’t happen anyway. Gingrich and Giuliani are not going to try to intervene to make their party’s nominee change his behavior; and if they did, they would fail. Additionally, despite some of the rumors floating around during the last 48 hours or so, Trump is not going to drop out of the race.
Talk of an intervention or rumors of Trump dropping out will do little to change Trump or damage his campaign. However, the increasing number of Republican politicians, just in the last week or so, who have stated their intention to vote for Hillary Clinton will. People like Meg Whitman and Richard Armitrage send a clear message with their endorsement of a Democrat, that Trump’s temperament disqualifies him for the presidency and that conservatives can survive a Clinton presidency. Those messages will resonate with the more educated white voters that Trump still needs in order to consolidate his white voter base. More importantly, if the news is filled with stories of Republicans who are supporting Clinton, Trump’s numbers will continue to decline thus creating an easy environment for more Republicans to abandon their erratic and not particularly conservative candidate.
Trump is not the first nominee about whom some party leaders are disgruntled. Generally speaking there are three main reasons why party activists and leaders can become dissatisfied with their party’s nominee: the candidate is insufficiently progressive or conservative depending on the party, concerns about the candidate’s competence or ability to function well as President or the perception that the candidate is unelectable. Many Republicans have long held the first two opinions of Trump and recent polls suggest that he is now unlikely to win as well.
Trump has proven a resilient candidate, deftly able to move voters’ attention away from stories that are bad for his campaign, albeit usually by creating another bad story, so he should not be counted out. However, his campaign may be entering a downward cycle from which it will be very difficult to extricate itself. As the incentive for Republicans to abandon Trump, is higher than ever continues to grow, this dynamic will only get worse for Trump. RNC Chair Reince Priebus knows this, and probably also knows that he is stuck with Trump as his party’s nominee. Therefore he has to turn to such unlikely suspects as Gingrich and Giuliani to try to talk some sense to Trump because anybody with a future in the GOP, or who simply wants to get elected in the fall, is trying to distance themselves from their party’s nominee.