Mainstream Republicans struggle for strategy to stop Trump's climb
WASHINGTON | By Megan Cassella and Doina Chiacu
Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump points at rival candidate Ted Cruz (not pictured) during a break at the U.S. Republican presidential candidates debate in Detroit, Michigan, March 3, 2016.
Mainstream U.S. Republicans struggled for a strategy on Friday to stop their party's presidential front-runner Donald Trump from becoming the nominee for the Nov. 8 election, as Democrats reveled in the chaos they hoped would boost their chances of keeping the White House.
The country's top elected Republican, House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, said he was not interested in an effort to draft him into the White House race.
And U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, a conservative presidential hopeful, ruled out a deal to pick a compromise Republican candidate at a "brokered convention" in July to deny brash businessman Trump the nomination.
Party leaders want to block Trump because they worry he would not be able to beat Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton in the election but time is running out after he scored big wins at this week's Super Tuesday state nominating contests.
Senior Republicans fret that Trump policies like building a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border and temporarily banning Muslims from entering the United States will turn off voters in November and upset U.S. allies.
Apparently concerned about Trump, a new group called the Committee to Draft Speaker Ryan filed papers with the Federal Election Commission on Thursday, seeking to raise money to push Ryan as a Republican alternative.
Ryan, a budget wonk who was the Republican vice presidential candidate in 2012, is seen by many in the party as a unifier after he took the speaker's job last year to heal a crippling power struggle between establishment Republican lawmakers and conservative upstarts in the House.
But he has shown no sign of wanting to carry the party banner at November's election.
"He is flattered, but not interested," Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong said in an email on Friday.
Cruz, brushed off the idea of a party deal to choose someone other than Trump at the Republicans' convention in Cleveland in July.
“In my view a brokered convention ain’t going to happen. And if the Washington dealmakers try to steal the nomination from the people, I think it would be a disaster. It would cause a revolt,” the senator from Texas told reporters in Maine.
A brokered convention can take place when the leading candidate does not have the 1,237 delegates needed to win the nomination and party leaders and campaigns negotiate among themselves to choose a compromise candidate.
The last time that happened at a Republican convention was in 1948 when Thomas Dewey was nominated.
NOT NORMAL REPUBLICAN
Trump, a real estate magnate who is drawing support from many blue-collar Republicans concerned about illegal immigration and stagnant wages, has won most Republican nominating contests and leads in many polls for the primary contests still to come.
"I’m not a normal Republican," he said to huge cheers at a rally in Warren, Michigan, on Friday, railing against the people in his party who are trying to stop him, including his closest challengers, Cruz and U.S. Senators Marco Rubio of Florida.
But the scrutiny has forced Trump to clarify policy positions.
He softened his stance on torture on Friday, saying he would not order the U.S. military to break international laws on how to treat terrorism suspects, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Trump, a former reality TV star, snubbed conservative Republicans, dropping out of the Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, event near Washington this weekend. He will instead attend a rally in Kansas.
His prospects of winning the Republican nomination have slid sharply in online wagering venues.
Chances of Trump claiming the Republican mantle have fallen
hard to 69 percent after cresting at 86 percent this week, according to PredictWise, which aggregates betting on
multiple venues into an implied probability.
Establishment Republicans, including the party's nominee four years ago, Mitt Romney, are openly urging voters to back Trump's Republican opponents by tactical voting.
On Thursday, he called on Republican primary voters to pick whichever candidate looks better placed to defeat Trump at state primaries.
But presidential candidate John Kasich, Ohio's Republican governor, rejected Romney's call.
“You gotta leave it to the voters to decide what they want. I don’t take any strategy from anybody,” Kasich said at the CPAC meeting.
Democrats were happy to let Republicans fight amongst themselves. "We can sit back and let them light their own dumpster fire and wait until they're finished," said Eddie Vale, spokesman for American Bridge, a liberal group which collects negative research on Republican candidates.
"They’re giving us so much great video footage, that we could run ads between now and November of nothing but Republicans attacking Trump," Vale told Reuters.
Questioned by Fox News Channel debate moderators on Thursday, Trump's rivals Rubio, Cruz and Kasich said they would support him if he were their party's nominee.
Many of the party's 31 state governors are staying out of the fray, steering clear of the "dump Trump" push.