The Other Shoe Drops

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wis., tells reporters it looks like Hillary Clinton got preferential treatment from the FBI in its investigation of the former secretary of state's use of a private email server for government business, during a news conference at Republican National Committee Headquarters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, July 6, 2016. He said there are a number of outstanding questions about the FBI inquiry. Director James Comey will be testifying Thursday before the House Oversight committee, and the House Judiciary panel has scheduled a hearing next week with Attorney General Loretta Lynch.   (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
J. Scott Applewhite/AP

You may have thought the shoe dropped yesterday or at various other points in the campaign. But the big one, in electoral terms, just dropped in the last hour. In any case, Trumpism has more than two shoes to work with. Last night, GOP electeds all agreed to issue statements of condemnation of Donald Trump, maintain their endorsements and hunker down. Today there’s been a steady stream of Republicans, especially those in tight races, abandoning Trump. As I said in my previous post, all the abandonments can do is leave the GOP in an acutely vulnerable electoral limbo – with zombie Trump, a name on the ballot, either dropped out or disowned by his party. But now we have the real players returning to the stage.

Over the last couple hours, Trump’s supporters are coming back into view. They reportedly heckled Paul Ryan at the event in Wisconsin where he was originally supposed to have shared the stage with Trump. The same apparently happened in Nevada with senate candidate Joe Heck. Joe Ralston says Heck was booed a short time ago as he told a crowd that Trump should step down.

“I’m so disappointed in you,” yelled one angry Trumper.

This should hardly surprise us. The institutional GOP resisted Trump mightily. But he won anyway because he has a massive amount of support among the most engaged Republican voters. The last 24 hours has probably lost him significant support in the race against Hillary Clinton. Perhaps he’s fallen from the low 40s to the very high 30s. Just a guess. But in the context of intra-Republican politics that leaves him with massive levels of support intact. This is a pivot establishment Republicans tried to pull off at numerous points on the road to October. They were never able to do so. Indeed, realizing the scope of the challenge they essentially never tried. Despite the news of the last 24 hours, there’s little reason to believe they’ll be successful now. And by ‘successful’ I mean leading a party abandonment of Trump as opposed to ripping open a massive hemorrhage in the party just weeks before the election.

If any part of Trump was buckling or feeling he had to give way (which I think is unlikely), these boisterous voices claiming betrayal will stiffen his resolve. They will make him want to fight and convince him – correctly – that many are on his side.

We haven’t seen the level of intra-party civil war that this looks like it might become at any time in recent political history. If it does it could radically alter what we’ve expected to see as the outcome of the 2016 election.

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