Less than three months before the kickoff Iowa caucuses, WaPo reports that there is growing anxiety bordering on panic among Republican elites about the dominance and durability of Donald Trump and Ben Carson and widespread bewilderment over how to defeat them. Expectations were that Trump and Carson would fizzle with time, but that has not happened, leaving establishment figures disoriented. “We’re potentially careening down this road of nominating somebody who frankly isn’t fit to be president in terms of the basic ability and temperament to do the job," warned one strategist as some in the party establishment are so desperate to change the dynamic that they are talking anew about drafting Romney - despite his insistence that he will not run again.
It appears they are right to worry at least as Clinton moves into dramatically odds-on chances of winning...
And Trump and Carson dominating... (via RealClearPolitics)
Party leaders and donors fear that nominating either man would have negative ramifications for the GOP ticket up and down the ballot, virtually ensuring a Hillary Rodham Clinton presidency and increasing the odds that the Senate falls into Democratic hands. As The Washington Post reports,
The party establishment is paralyzed. Big money is still on the sidelines. No consensus alternative to the outsiders has emerged from the pack of governors and senators running, and there is disagreement about how to prosecute the case against them.
For months, the GOP professional class assumed Trump and Carson would fizzle with time. Voters would get serious, the thinking went, after seeing the outsiders share a stage with more experienced politicians at the first debate. Or when summer turned to fall, kids went back to school and parents had time to assess the candidates. Or after the second, third or fourth debates, certainly.
None of that happened, of course, leaving establishment figures disoriented.
“The rest of the field is still wishing upon a star that Trump and Carson are going to self-destruct,” said Eric Fehrnstrom, a former adviser to 2012 nominee Mitt Romney. But, he said, “they have to be made to self-destruct. . . . Nothing has happened at this point to dislodge Trump or Carson.”
“People usually start off in the same way: Pollyanna-ish,” Kean said. “They assure me that Trump and Carson will eventually fade. Then we’ll talk some more, and I give them a reality check. I’ll say, ‘The guy in the grocery store likes Trump. So does the guy who cuts my hair. They’re probably going to stick with him. Who knows if this ends?’ ”
According to other Republicans, some in the party establishment are so desperate to change the dynamic that they are talking anew about drafting Romney — despite his insistence that he will not run again. Friends have mapped out a strategy for a late entry to pick up delegates and vie for the nomination in a convention fight, according to the Republicans who were briefed on the talks, though Romney has shown no indication of reviving his interest.
One well-funded outside group, the Club for Growth, has aired ads attacking Trump in Iowa and more recently came out against Carson as well. “Donald Trump and Doctor Ben Carson are in over their heads,” said Club for Growth President David McIntosh, labeling both candidates as “pretenders.”
Still, the party establishment’s greatest weapon - big money - is partly on the shelf.
The apprehension among some party elites goes beyond electability, according to one Republican strategist who spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk candidly about the worries.
“We’re potentially careening down this road of nominating somebody who frankly isn’t fit to be president in terms of the basic ability and temperament to do the job,” this strategist said. “It’s not just that it could be somebody Hillary could destroy electorally, but what if Hillary hits a banana peel and this person becomes president?”
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, herself an outsider who rode the tea party wave into office five years ago, explained the phenomenon.
“You have a lot of people who were told that if we got a majority in the House and a majority in the Senate, then life was gonna be great,” she said in an interview Thursday. “What you’re seeing is that people are angry."