The Grand Old Party of grand old American values seems to be having second thoughts about trying to deny Donald Trump, the opiate of the angry masses, what he won fair and square.
Sure, the choirboy and failed 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney and the conservative intelligentsia — uptight, Northeast right-wingers like William Kristol of the Weekly Standard who are aghast at the coarse spectacle that is Donaldmania — may still be scrambling for a way to torpedo the Trump nomination (Mike Allen of Politico today quotes a source on the Right as saying there is “a 50-50 chance” Sen. Ben Sasse, 44, of Nebraska; Sen. Tom Coburn, 68, of Wyoming; or Romney, 69, will make an independent run against Trump.)
But House Speaker Paul Ryan, the failed 2012 vice-presidential candidate and new altarboy of the GOP Establishment is inching toward the inevitable, while moneybags like Sheldon Adelson are ginning up enthusiasm and cash for Trump.
What Trump has to do, though, if he wants to keep confounding the voices of politics-as-usual like The New York Times, which have gleefully laid out all the data and Electoral College math that show he doesn’t have a bumbling Apprentice’s prayer of beating Hillary Clinton, is keep being Trump.
Despite the Year of Donald and the Season of Bernie, the media and the political class still don’t get how hungry America is for someone who is genuine — even if he is a genuine, self-aggrandizing, tasteless 15-year-old.
The tired saw is that Democrats run left in the primaries and shift to the center in the general election while Republicans go hard right and then move to the middle as November nears.
Trump, the Manhattan real estate guy who would say anything to close the deal, ran wild and yahoo in the primaries. Now he must shift, too, if he is to make fools of his naysayers again. Still, that doesn’t mean turning into an oh-shut-up politician trying to be all things to all people and slurping up to big donors.
Here’s what Trump has to do to become even more competitive against Clinton (a trace of humility and more of the decency he showed on last night’s interview with Fox’s Megyn Kelly might go a long way, too):
- Ignore the Republican Party Establishment while mending fences where possible. Take whatever groveling endorsements come along. Collect all the cash available. But DO NOT go mainstream. That would be a brand-killer.
- Keep making the case that the media is on a witch hunt. That’s not hard when The New York Times runs a front-page Sunday piece that comes up short in its efforts to portray Trump as a man who treats women badly. He might ask how his behavior as a private citizen stacks up against the misogynist behavior of Democrats like John and Teddy Kennedy, LBJ and Bill Clinton — and that was while they all held national office.
- Pick a woman as a running mate. Nikki Haley, the Indian-American governor of South Carolina, would be a good choice to bolster his credibility with women, undercut Hillary’s “woman card” and argue against his perceived xenophobia. Haley first endorsed Marco Rubio in the primaries and then supported Ted Cruz after Rubio dropped out. She has said she is not interested in being a vice-presidential candidate, and lining up with Trump could endanger her promising political future, but if she can spin it as a way to save down-ticket candidates the Establishment thinks are at risk, taking one for the team (presuming the GOP loses) could help position her for 2020.
- Woo the Bernie bros. Trump and Sanders share some significant positions: Both say the war in Iraq was a monumental mistake, both don’t want to get stuck in other foreign quagmires, both call big trade deals like NAFTA disasters and Trump now agrees that no one can live on the federal minimum wage. It would be hard to peel off Sanders supporters if Clinton chose a running mate like Elizabeth Warren, but never underestimate the arrogance of the Clintonistas, who keep snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
- Do the right thing about the defunct Trump University. According to CBS, students who say they were defrauded by Trump University are seeking restitution of at least $40 million. A trial is scheduled for Nov. 28, after the election. And in a separate case related to Trump University, a New York appeals court ruled on Tuesday that Trump can challenge the legal underpinnings of fraud charges against him before the state’s highest court, a process that could take a year or more, according to The Wall Street Journal. Continue with the challenge to the New York case but concede that the university was not up to the Trump empire’s standards and settle with the students.
- Apologize to Sen. John McCain and other veterans for remarks about prisoners of war and account for money raised to benefit vets. And not half-heartedly as he did in the Kelly interview. It is the decent thing to do and will disarm many critics, especially those in the military.
It’s hard to believe that a man who claims to be worth more than $10 billion is an underdog. But if there is one thing America likes more than an underdog, it’s a hound dog with a decent heart.