Dan Janison has been a reporter at Newsday since 1997.
From one moment to the next, it gets harder to imagine how the Republican Party will create even a semblance of the solidarity it would normally need to prevail in the fall presidential election.
By divvying up the places where they’ll campaign, hoping to deny Donald Trump the GOP nomination, rivals John Kasich and Ted Cruz are deepening the party’s internal cracks.
One could say they’re all set for the Cleave-land convention.
The Trump rivals’ rationale seems to be that through deeper division will come common purpose — as when Tacitus of Rome said “We had to destroy the village in order to save it.”
Cruz campaign manager Jeff Roe seemed to send the same message when he said the unique joint venture with Kasich is “to ensure that we nominate a Republican who can unify the Republican Party and win in November.”
He means Cruz, of course.
This unique joint venture comes on the verge of five key primaries Tuesday in which Trump is widely expected to add to his delegate count.
“No one accurately predicted what would happen until now,” said a veteran New York State Republican operative who’s due to attend the party’s July convention. “So it’s all new territory, all totally unheard of.”
Trump as of Monday has 845 delegates. Cruz and Kasich, his only primary rivals left standing, have won 707 between them. The number to clinch is 1,237.
Those numbers alone indicate that a big share of party activists are resisting Trump at this late date. If Cruz or Kasich win the Cleveland convention on multiple ballots, Trump and his supporters can be reasonably expected to revolt. At least, they can’t be expected to turn out at polls for the man who usurped their candidate.
A hard-fought political battle is one thing. But even if Trump clinches the delegate race ahead of the convention, the preening and personal abuse he has heaped on his competitors — and their firing back in kind — has gone way too far for genuine unity to develop in the next few months.
And even if you accept the Trump camp’s talk of acting more presidential, it cannot happen while players in the party are openly plotting the billionaire’s political demise via rules and procedure — and while Trump is sounding so aggrieved.
Remember, too, that Kasich is a kind of host at the July parley. He’s the governor of Ohio. What might his welcoming remarks this summer sound like if the hall has become The Donald’s Den?
The New York operative said, “The problem I see is if we get to the convention, and it’s obvious that Trump doesn’t have the right number for delegates, and they try to go for someone who has not campaigned for the office.”
“I don’t think the rank-and-file will accept that.”
Looked at another way, much may depend on who Trump as nominee picks for a running mate. “There are people who feel he could carry states like New York,” the Republican said. “A lot of Republicans think Trump may be able to bring Reagan Democrats to his side.”
Maybe the Cruz-Kasich deal will work, maybe it won’t. But if you think delegate rules are intricate, consider how complicated it will be for this divided party to prevail nationwide in November.