Trump’s growing GOP challengers revive fears of 2016 repeat
As Mitt Romney’s political star dims, his more conservative critics are suddenly feeling a sense of urgency: They must mount a campaign that could put him on the same footing as the 2012 GOP nominee.
To some conservatives, the GOP primary will be viewed as the first test of Trump’s conservative bona fides. Others are eyeing the general election as a test for the GOP.
“There is definitely a sense among a lot of people that it would be a referendum on whether they were conservative or not, which I think is why [Trump] won,” said John Weaver, vice-president of conservative Media Research Center, who is expected to announce a campaign next week. “People are really feeling now that they need to get on the ground and make a difference in this race.”
“The only thing I know is that Hillary Clinton wins in November,” he added. “There is nothing else they can do, they have nothing to worry about.”
In interviews with several GOP presidential candidates, some of the Republican hopefuls are privately saying they’re worried about the future of the party — a party that’s already grappling with its identity. They all see the general election as a test, a moment when they can either run to the right to take Trump on directly or go the middle and hope to survive him.
“I don’t know if it’s too late, but we have to take a look,” said Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida. “The party will ultimately suffer if it’s too late.”
Trump’s rise has raised questions about whether he could become the GOP’s nominee in the general election. And many of his conservative critics believe a campaign they helped elect could easily lead to that party’s demise.
To get beyond the chaos Trump brought to the 2016 primary, his most fervent conservative critics say they will have to begin the challenge early next year. That suggests a campaign they