Four years ago, when about 10 percent of Hoosier Republicans voting in the primary thought it was a good idea to depose U.S. Sen. Dick Lugar, I tried an intervention.
I had a data set with the Howey-DePauw Indiana Battleground Poll that projected the Senate race into the general election. Lugar easily led Democrat Joe Donnelly by about 30 percent, while the senator’s primary opponent, then-Treasurer Richard Mourdock and Donnelly were tied. The reality was GOP primary voters tossed Lugar aside, determining he wasn’t a pure enough conservative. And that November, Donnelly defeated Mourdock, ending a 36-year Republican hold on that Senate seat.
My intervention failed, and I wept.
But we live for another day. The question I have for Indiana Republicans is: Do you really, really, really want to nominate Donald Trump for the presidency? This question comes just hours after Trump launched a Twitter attack at Heidi Cruz, the wife of rival Ted Cruz. It comes as violence has become a hallmark of the Trump rallies, which are just days or weeks from debuting here in Indiana as we head toward the May 3 primary.
It comes with the Real Clear Composite polling showing Hillary Clinton mauling Trump 48.5 to 38.3 percent, while Cruz trails Clinton 46.4 to 45 percent, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich leads her 48-42.8 percent.
A new Bloomberg Poll shows Clinton crushing Trump 54-36 percent, while Kasich leads her 47-43 percent.
When I talk with Hoosiers gearing up for Trump, I ask why, and the inevitable answer is, “He wants to build a wall” on the Mexican border. He tells it like it is, even if it denigrates crucial voting blocks like Latinos and women, and then says it’s just “show business.”
Club For Growth President David McIntosh has embraced the assessment of Indiana Republican National Committeeman John Hammond III when he called Trump “unfit” for the presidency.
“I would urge them to let voters know who the best nominee is,” said McIntosh, the former Indiana congressman and 2000 gubernatorial nominee, on Republican leaders who are vowing to back the Republican nominee, no matter if it is Trump. “If Trump is elected, we lose the White House, the Senate and the Supreme Court.”
Does Trump possess the potential to yank down the Indiana GOP ticket?
“The reality is in poll after poll, Hillary clobbers Donald Trump next fall,” McIntosh said. “If the party nominates him, it will have a down-ballot impact. You’ll have straight-ticket voting that will be difficult to overcome.”
Despite the growing data set, Republican U.S. Senate candidates Marlin Stutzman and Todd Young, along with Gov. Mike Pence, are vowing to support the nominee.
Gov. Pence’s re-election campaign confirmed that the governor will support the nominee.
“He is definitely not going to support Hillary Clinton. It is more concerning how her agenda impacts Indiana,” said campaign spokesman Joe Frank.
McIntosh is not surprised incumbents are taking that path even after others, such as South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and Sen. Lindsey Graham, have expressed dire warnings about Trump.
“What we’re seeing in other states will apply in Indiana,” McIntosh said. “Trump voters do participate in primaries, but these have not been inherently anti-incumbent. They are backing candidates who are seen as outsiders. You’re seeing caution with Republicans at this point because of the primary. They don’t want to upset Trump voters.”
McIntosh said he has not talked with his old friend and ally Gov. Pence about the Trump potential impacts.
“I think in the Indiana legislature, and Congress, the majority is such a large majority, I think they could retain that even if Trump is the nominee. But close races will likely be affected,” McIntosh said.
The problem for Pence is he’s facing a close race against Democrat John Gregg. Political analyst Stuart Rothenberg is sounding the alarm on the Senate race, saying Democrats are “now poised to retake the Senate” if Trump is nominated, with races in North Carolina, Indiana, Missouri and Arizona likely to become competitive.
Yes, Hoosier Republicans are mad as hell. Yes, Donald Trump is tellin’ it like it is even if it’s vulgar and encased within a narcissistic personality disorder (hey, give that man the nuclear codes!).
It is a powerful spectacle. But the critical question in this intervention is simply this: Do you want to make a desperate, futile gesture? Or do you want win in November?