Following Donald Trump's victories Tuesday night in Florida, North Carolina and Illinois, “the day of reckoning is now undeniably here for the Republican Party's office-holders and elite donors,” says former political consultant Pope “Mac” McCorkle.
“To accept Trump or make a last stand to deny him the nomination at the convention appears to be the all-but-inescapable question before them. And the problem is that they can't live with him or without him: Trump is not anywhere near their kind of conservative -- on trade and a number of big issues -- but neither is the emerging new Republican electorate that he is helping to congeal,” says McCorkle, an associate professor of the practice at the Sanford School of Public Policy.
McCorkle notes that Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Trump’s main rival for the Republican nomination, continues to have a clear message: I am the only ideologically consistent conservative in the Republican field. “But that does not yet appear to be much of a winning message,” McCorkle says. “And Cruz still has to divide his ideological gunfire between Trump and (John) Kasich as the new Trump challenger.”
Kasich, the Ohio governor who carried his home state on Tuesday, has a small window of opportunity, but he needs to be careful not to become the GOP establishment option, McCorkle says.
“His only hope is to steal the insurgent mantle quickly from Trump. He can't frame Trump as the ‘establishment candidate,’ but he has a slight chance to portray Trump as part of the negative, hopeless status quo in American politics. Therefore, Kasich would be the positive, hopeful, regular-guy insurgent versus Trump, the negative, mean, bully billionaire. But it is getting very late to pull off such a magic trick.”
On the Democratic side, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's clean sweep of states Tuesday night seems to demonstrate that rival Bernie Sanders’ own social movement insurgency has not yet gone as far as that happening on the Republican side.
“The ideological irony is large: Secretary Clinton as the more ‘conservative’ candidate is successfully depending on minority voters -- who are usually the party's most liberal voters -- to turn back the more left candidate in Bernie Sanders. Does that mean that African-Americans and other minorities are the New Establishment of the Democratic Party?”