From Mitt Romney to George Will to the editors of National Review magazine, the case against Donald Trump being the Republican presidential nominee is well established. In sum, he’s not a true conservative – he’s a documented liar and he’s an apparent misogynist and bigot.
But there are also practical reasons that Republicans would be foolish to blindly support the nominee if it’s Trump. His allies who suggest he’s leading a widespread revolt against the poorly defined “establishment” ignore a couple of important facts.
First, he is only garnering roughly a third of GOP primary voters thus far. Yes, he can argue he is bringing new voters into the process, but that phenomenon should be scrutinized for the likelihood he’s giving disaffected racists a reason to vote.
Additionally, Trump supporters love to cite his poll numbers but conveniently ignore the fact that he would be the most unpopular nominee in modern history. He is disliked by a majority of American voters and that is before the Democrats dump $250 million of negative advertising on his vain mane.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Sacramento Bee
If you think those ads won’t matter, you are brutally naive. Thirty-second mash-ups of him feigning ignorance about renowned white supremacist David Duke paired with his comments about “the blacks” will be debilitating. And that’s before female voters get treated to his vulgar appearances on shock jock Howard Stern’s show.
Trump is already more unpopular than Hillary Clinton, which will cede one of the greatest advantages Republicans have against the likely Democratic nominee in the fall.
And theories that Trump will somehow be able to pull disaffected white male Democrats into his fold ignore the counterweight of moderate women and college-educated Republicans who just won’t vote for P.T. Barnum to have the nuclear launch codes.
Trump will be an electoral disaster and his potential reverse coattails could sink Republican candidates in November and for decades beyond. He will substantially decrease the odds of Republicans retaining their majority in the U.S. Senate. GOP incumbents in Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania and other states cannot afford to be sidetracked explaining the sexism, racism and buffoonery of their nominee.
Similar to how the anti-immigrant Proposition 187 in 1994 has become an anchor to GOP candidates in California, candidates who support Trump will be bludgeoned with all of what is offensive about Trump. In fact, such ads are already running against Sen. John McCain in Arizona.
As we approach the big winner-take-all Republican primaries in Florida, Ohio and elsewhere on March 15, the strategy to stop Trump is to spread the majority of delegates across the three remaining candidates and deny Trump a majority before the national convention.
This firebreak strategy is plausible but not probable. If the Trump conflagration jumps past March 15 and he appears to have the nomination locked up, it is essential not to unite around him.
For principled and practical reasons, conservatives who care about our issues and the future of the GOP should unite behind a third-party candidate. Any other approach assures broader political damage beyond losing the White House in 2016.
Rob Stutzman is a Republican political consultant and former aide to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.