Politico reports that Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus is reassuring party leaders that the GOP can control Donald Trump if he is its nominee because “it has tools Trump will need to use to win a general election—voter data and field, digital and media operations that a nominee typically inherits from the party infrastructure.”
This assumes that Mr. Trump wants to win the general election.
Ask yourself what Mr. Trump would rather be doing on Wednesday, Nov. 9—putting together a transition team or appearing at an impromptu rally to denounce the Democrats for “stealing” the election? Would he rather be at a press conference fielding hostile questions about how he’s going to repair U.S. relations with all the countries he’s insulted during the campaign, or basking in the cheers of supporters who refuse to accept the Election Day outcome?
Mr. Trump has already practiced his “concession” speech by repeatedly accusing Ted Cruz of stealing a win in the Iowa caucuses. If the former “WrestleMania” star is the nominee (I’m still not convinced he’s inevitable, but we’ll find out next week), he will undoubtedly direct his campaign to put together talking points about illegal voter registration, media complicity in spreading rumors about him and “suspicious” election results. (Like the “mathematical and statistical impossibility” of Mitt Romney failing to get any votes in several Philadelphia precincts where all or almost all of the voters were black. Mr. Trump is not likely to believe it if heavily Hispanic precincts give him almost no votes.)
Conspiracy-mongering has, after all, a key part of Mr. Trump’s appeal at least since he raised his political visibility by waving around the discredited rumor that Barack Obama was born outside of the United States. The Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf writes today that many of the leading voices of conservatism, including Rush Limbaugh and other talk-radio hosts, thrive by telling their audiences that they are being victimized by shadowy elites:
Limbaugh led his listeners to believe that the Republican and Democratic establishments are conspiring to destroy the last remnants of the America that was born at the Founding—that these elites have nearly completed their plot to have illegal aliens overrun the nation, steal elections for corrupt Democrats, and treat conservatives as state enemies.
Mr. Limbaugh and the like could certainly continue their crusades with Donald Trump in the Oval Office (but do they turn on him as a sell-out or charge the Republican-led Congress with plotting against him?), but it’s a lot easier to grow audiences and raise money when there’s a nefarious Democrat as president.
I’m not suggesting that Mr. Trump would intentionally throw an election. Based on his success so far, it’s quite possible he could spend an entire debate singing “What’s New, Pussycat?” and still have his supporters think he’s a political genius. But if I were House Speaker Paul Ryan, I wouldn’t be panicking about a President Trump coming up with a rival domestic policy agenda.