As the question of the Republican nomination seems to settle, numerous questions arise to fill the void.
Can Donald Trump attract a unified effort behind him to defeat Hillary Clinton? He can. Nothing should galvanize Republican voters like the urgency of preventing an Obama third term in the form of a Hillary presidency.
But there are possible obstacles. One is the Trump persona, which can run to caustic and juvenile extremes. Those may have been tools of the primary battle season, to be replaced now with what passes for graciousness toward his former rivals. Note that on Tuesday night, “Lyin’Ted” had become a “tough, smart competitor.”
The other stumbling block could be the wounded feelings of those who did not get their way. In the punditry ranks, Bill Kristol still entertains a third-party fantasy that will guarantee a Hillary presidency. George Will calls it a Republican duty to deny Trump the White House.
With Republicans like these, who needs Democrats?
Most GOP voters have not squandered their professional reputations with tirades of Trump hatred; they will be an easier sell. They will look down the barrel of a Hillary presidency and realize soon enough that the uncertainties of Trump are are a far better prospect than the certainties that she brings: more years of weak borders, job-crushing expansionist government, ambivalence toward global jihad, oppressive political correctness, environmental extremism, and most important of all, Supreme Court justices sure to rewrite the Constitution to the tune of their political whims.
Trump may provide some affronts to conservative sensibilities, but Hillary Clinton runs the table. The observation from hand-wringing Republicans that the two are roughly similar is a perceptual disorder that should fade away as tantrums give way to coping.
And what now for Ted Cruz? I spent Wednesday morning fielding numerous suggestions from his crestfallen voter base. Some would love for him to be Trump’s pick to fill the Supreme Court vacancy. Others hoped for enough healing to pave the way for a Trump/Cruz ticket.
The first seems iffy, the second wildly improbable. I offer a third possibility: Keep him right where he is.
There are a few solid textualist judges who could ably succeed Antonin Scalia. There are even more possibilities for an inspiringly conservative Trump running mate.
But can anyone promise me that if Cruz left the Senate for either role, that the vacancy would be filled with someone of his courage and clarity? There is something about a Trump presidency that attaches even greater value to Ted Cruz in the Senate.
But short term, the Cruz question is: will he support Trump? I believe he ultimately will. There may be no joint appearances at festive barbecues in Houston, but just as Trump will not be insulting Cruz any longer, the Senator is not likely to further berate his party’s nominee as an “utterly immoral pathological liar.”
Cruz knows he cannot spend years properly identifying the horrors of a Clinton presidency, and then engage in some sideshow insurgency that helps bring it about. He will come around, but it will take time.
And now we actually have time. With John Kasich’s overdue exit, the remaining nine Republican primaries are reduced to blissful insignificance, freeing up room to mend fences, heal wounds and get focused on the mission at hand.
The Republican convention in July, once dreaded as a possible Thunderdome of discontent, can now return to its usual quadrennial role: a big infomercial for the party’s agenda and its nominee.
That can happen if Trump and his detractors drink deeply from the well of poise and maturity. It will make him a better candidate, and bring his critics to a place of needed calm.
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