Stoddard: Can Trump close the deal with the GOP?

Stoddard: Can Trump close the deal with the GOP?
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Donald TrumpDonald TrumpGOP grapples with chaotic Senate primary in Pennsylvania ​​Trump social media startup receives commitment of billion from unidentified 'diverse group' of investors Iran thinks it has the upper hand in Vienna — here's why it doesn't MORE has made history with a remarkable, unprecedented accomplishment — he’s defeated 16 rival candidates, including numerous governors and senators, without any political experience, and he’s spent less than half of what Jeb Bush spent and a third of what Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonRepublican Ohio Senate candidate slams JD Vance over previous Trump comments Budowsky: Why GOP donors flock to Manchin and Sinema Countering the ongoing Republican delusion MORE and Bernie SandersBernie SandersOvernight Health Care — Presented by March of Dimes — Abortion access for 65M women at stake Hospitals in underserved communities face huge cuts in reckless 'Build Back Better' plan Sanders urges Biden to delay Medicare premium hike linked to Alzheimer's drug MORE invested to reach the finish line first.

To win the White House, however, Trump’s next accomplishment will have to be far more remarkable and unprecedented. The GOP presumptive nominee begins the general election campaign as a way-underdog, with a projected 191 electoral votes to 347 for Clinton. His highest disapproval numbers have registered with Latinos, women, African-Americans and young voters, worse than any nominee of either party recorded in polling.


After bashing Republican leaders as dishonest bosses who rigged the system, Trump’s victory was met by some with begrudging respect and resignation, and a widespread acknowledgment that the billionaire businessman understood Republican voters far better in 2016 than their party leaders did. Consultants and those whose financial livelihoods depend on their professional connections to the party were quick to come around. But there was also an audible stampede away from the presumptive nominee.

Republican Sens. Ben Sasse (Neb.), Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerNevada becomes early Senate battleground Nevada governor Sisolak injured in car accident, released from hospital Democrats brace for tough election year in Nevada MORE (Nev.) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGraham emerges as go-to ally for Biden's judicial picks This Thanksgiving, skip the political food fights and talk UFOs instead Biden move to tap oil reserves draws GOP pushback MORE (S.C.) said outright they wouldn’t support him, while other elected Republicans equivocated in extreme discomfort. Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanNo time for the timid: The dual threats of progressives and Trump Juan Williams: Pelosi shows her power Cheney takes shot at Trump: 'I like Republican presidents who win re-election' MORE (R-Wis.) on Thursday said he is "not ready" to support Trump yet. Sen. Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteSununu setback leaves GOP scrambling in New Hampshire The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - GOP dealt 2022 blow, stares down Trump-era troubles Sununu exit underscores uncertain GOP path to gain Senate majority MORE, up for reelection in New Hampshire, said she would “support” Trump but wasn’t endorsing him, whatever that means. Rep. Pete King (N.Y.) told The New York Times he would support Trump but called him “a guy with no knowledge of what’s going on.”

Republicans from Maine Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsPhotos of the Week: Schumer, ASU protest and sea turtles Real relief from high gas prices The Hill's 12:30 Report: Biden to announce increased measures for omicron MORE, a moderate, to conservative Rep. Steve King (Iowa) declared Trump would need to stop insulting people. Both George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush let it be known immediately the real estate mogul wouldn’t be getting their endorsements.

Within 24 hours of clinching the Republican nomination, and pledging to unite the GOP, Trump made sure to outrage Republicans — three times.

First, though Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzHospitals in underserved communities face huge cuts in reckless 'Build Back Better' plan To counter China, the Senate must confirm US ambassadors The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Congress avoids shutdown MORE wasn't likely to win Indiana’s primary and foreclose a contested convention Tuesday night, Trump attacked Cruz’s father, citing a National Enquirer story that suggested Rafael Cruz was someone involved, with Lee Harvey Oswald, in the assassination of John F. Kennedy. The next day he lied, saying “no one denied it,” which earned him two Pinocchio’s from The Washington Post Fact Checker. Cruz himself had disavowed the story that contained no evidence, merely a photo of someone resembling Rafael Cruz near Oswald. The third strike was Trump’s admission he could flip-flip and now support raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour after opposing it in the primary. 

Conservatives who have proclaimed #NeverTrump aren’t going to come around, they say. To them Trump is a Democrat who happens to be an immigration hardliner: he won’t touch entitlement reform, he is anti-trade and anti-interventionist, he loves eminent domain and the ObamaCare mandate, wants the government to provide subsidized coverage for those who can’t afford it, and defends Planned Parenthood. Add a minimum wage increase perhaps.

The most conflicted Republicans are lawmakers campaigning in swing seats. The Senate map, for Republicans, has gone from fragile to nearly doomed. Both Sens. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainThe bully who pulls the levers of Trump's mind never learns GOP senators appalled by 'ridiculous' House infighting MSNBC's Nicolle Wallace, Chris Christie battle over Fox News MORE (R-Ariz.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) have said in public and private that Trump’s nomination is likely to imperil their reelection.

Yet it’s not at all hard to imagine Trump winning. After all, he is a salesman who has proven he can close the deal. And Republicans are stuck with him. One veteran of two GOP administrations described his resignation this way: “We’re going to lose the Senate either way, if he wins or she wins, so we may as well embrace him.”


Stoddard is an associate editor of The Hill.