As Donald Trump marches toward a series of likely victories in Republican primaries on Super Tuesday, nervous Republican and conservative groups are escalating their attacks in an effort to stop him before he can clinch the nomination.
Conservative-backed anti-Trump PACs, almost daily missives about the bombastic billionaire, and rhetorical onslaught from influential individuals condemning his White House run are increasing.
The latest salvo arrived in the email inboxes of hundreds of influential thinkers, reporters, and media talking heads Monday, the eve of the Super Tuesday primaries.
“The Daily Donald” debuted with links to stories highlighting Trump business endeavors. It’s the product of the Our Principles PAC, founded by Katie Packer, who served as deputy campaign manager on Mitt Romney’s 2012 Republican presidential campaign.
“I think it’s really important that Republicans nominate, at minimum, a Republican, but my hope is to have a principled conservative to be the standard bearer to present a contrast to Hillary Clinton,” Packer told McClatchy. “We felt that we needed to expose him for the fraud that he is.”
This comes after the fiscally conservative group Club for Growth Action spent $1 million to air 30-second television and digital ads in Oklahoma and Arkansas. The ads were designed to “expose the truth about Donald Trump’s long liberal record of support for higher taxes, national health care, and government bailouts,” said David McIntosh, the group’s president and a former Congressman from Indiana.
“I’m glad that people are finally realizing they have to take his candidacy seriously,” McIntosh said. “We knew he’d be a disaster for the party, and terrible for the country but people kept saying ‘He will go away.’ I think people woke up after South Carolina and realized something has to be done.”
The next two weeks will be the turning point
Roger Beckett, executive director of the Ashbrook Center, on stop Trump efforts mounted by conservatives
Still, Trump continued to notch endorsements from Republicans: Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, an advocate of tougher immigration laws, said Monday that he’s backing Trump. Kansas votes on Saturday.
“Mr. Trump stands head and shoulders above the other candidate,” Kobach said. “He has made it clear that ramping up the enforcement of our immigration laws will be his top priority.”
Several so-called establishment Republicans initially watched Trump’s candidacy with a sense of bemusement, thinking that the voting public’s infatuation with the former reality-television host would flame out as primaries approached. Republican presidential candidates have vowed to back whoever is the party’s nominee in the fall.
But after Trump racked up impressive victories in New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina, and after the once-presumed strong candidacies of establishment candidates such as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie fell by the wayside, more mainstream Republicans grew alarmed.
“The ‘Anybody but Trump’ effort by many people in the right is building right now,” said Roger Beckett, executive director of the Ashbrook Center at Ohio’s Ashland University. “There are a lot of people on the right who wonder if Trump is really the right person who will reduce the size and scope of government.”
Romney, the former Massachusetts Republican governor who recently raised questions about Trump’s tax returns, took to Twitter again Monday. This time he blasted Trump for not condemning the Ku Klux Klan and grand wizard David Duke in a television interview Sunday.
Trump on Monday blamed the Klan controversy on a faulty earpiece that prevented him from fully understanding the question posed to him on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“I’m sitting in a house in Florida, with a very bad earpiece that they gave me, and you could hardly hear what he was saying,” Trump said on NBC’s Today Show. “What I heard was ‘various groups.’ And I don’t mind disavowing anybody and I disavowed David Duke.”
Like Romney, MSNBC “Morning Joe” host Joe Scarborough, a former Republican Congressman from Florida, criticized Trump for failing to disavow the Klan and Duke.
In an op/ed article in Monday’s Washington Post, Scarborough asks, “is this how the party of Abraham Lincoln dies?”
Former CIA Director and ex-National Security Agency head Michael Hayden, in an appearance Friday on HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher” said, “I would be incredibly concerned if a President Trump governed in a way that was consistent with the language that candidate Trump expressed during the campaign.”
“Let me give you a punchline: If he were to order that once in government, the American armed forces would refuse to act,” Hayden told Maher. “You are required not to follow an unlawful order … That would be in violation of all the international laws of armed conflict.”
McIntosh said he hopes that the Oklahoma and Arkansas ads will pull Trump’s numbers down in those states. He said Club for Growth Action plans to expand its campaign into the March 15 primaries, predicting that getting money for massive ad buys won’t be difficult.
“The last few days, people have realized we need to do something,” McIntosh said. “People are calling now, ‘Can we talk to David?’ ”