Governor of Mississippi, 2004 to 2012; Republican National Committee chairman, 1993 to 1997
Republican primary voters, including party leaders, should support whomever they believe would be the best nominee for the GOP and the best president for the country.
Donald Trump is clearly in the best position, but there is a long road ahead. Those who want someone other than Trump have little time to spare, but they won’t give up trying to nominate a candidate they think has a better chance to win in November and would make a better president. There is absolutely nothing wrong with their fighting for their views, just as there is nothing wrong with Trump’s supporters fighting for him.
As one who intends to support the Republican nominee, I recognize that this choice is in the hands of millions of GOP primary voters, as it should be. I expect a candidate to go to Cleveland with the necessary 1,237 delegates to be nominated on the first ballot. If not, we will have a contested convention, a rarity in modern U.S. politics. But it won’t be a “brokered” convention. There is nobody who can “broker” it. In the unlikely case of a contested convention, the delegates will have to work through the process; no wise men exist who can control or broker such a convention.
Member (R-Ga.), House of Representatives, 1979 to 1999; House speaker, 1995 to 1999
In truth, the two most likely Republican nominees both represent a widespread rebuke to party elites. With Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas) having won 80 percent of the delegates chosen so far, it is time for the elites to accept that ordinary Republicans – their own voters – want an insurgent outsider.
In the event of a Trump nomination, the question will be whether the party elites suicidally do to their nominee what they did to Barry Goldwater in 1964 or come around to supporting him, as they did with Ronald Reagan in 1980. It’s easy to forget that the establishment similarly disliked Reagan, whom they viewed as an outsider, before he became a Republican hero.
In 1964, the anti-Goldwater elites at the top of the party not only caused the defeat of their own party’s nominee for president because they despised him so intensely; they also crushed House and Senate Republicans in the process. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (Wis.) should hope that today’s elites consider how much better it was to work with Reagan than it was to destroy Goldwater.
The speech Mitt Romney gave recently was a discouraging indication in this regard. Its personal vitriol and nastiness about Trump would be difficult to walk back.
I am confident that either Trump or Cruz would seek to work with the establishment after winning the nomination and potentially the presidency. I am not nearly as confident that the establishment would work with the party’s eventual nominee.
Editor, the Weekly Standard
How should Republicans respond to having Donald Trump as our front-runner? With the determination to defeat him.
The Republican Party has been mostly right on most of the big issues of my lifetime – on communism and Islamist terrorism, markets and the Constitution, crime and welfare and education. The GOP has, of course, had its share of moral lapses, intellectual failures and political defeats. But none would compare with choosing Trump as our nominee.
And so Republicans should resist and reverse the current trend of events.
After all, we disdain claims of historical inevitability and scorn the charms of pseudo-sophisticated fatalism. There is still time to defeat Trump’s effort to win the Republican nomination. And even if Trump were to be the official nominee, there would be no reason not to mount an independent Republican candidacy in the general election. Either way, we can prevail – or go down fighting, with flags flying and guns blazing.
Senior vice president for foreign and defense policy studies, American Enterprise Institute
Democracy is not for the fainthearted. Donald Trump, who until five years ago made most of his political donations to Democratic candidates and groups, hates free trade, hates immigrants, hates Muslims and blames George W. Bush for 9/11, is not a typical member of the Grand Old Party. But the rules are such that he can call himself whatever he wants. And it looks as though he’s on his way to the nomination.
There are two questions here: What should the GOP do, and what should Republican voters do? The GOP, like all parties, is subject to the rules of the game. There are real questions as to whether those rules will permit a convention that sidelines Trump, who is no conservative and will do lasting damage to the conservative movement and the Republican brand. Then there are the people who make up the voting base – Republicans and independents. For them, the right choice is to vote with their conscience as Americans.
What does this country stand for? We are a nation of immigrants, founded on religious tolerance and respect for the rule of law. If a Trump presidency is consonant with those values, it will be an easy vote. For most conservatives, it is not, and they will need to vote accordingly, not for someone who stands for everything conservatism is against but for someone who will repair the United States after eight terrible years. That will be a third-party candidate, the product of a brokered convention or a write-in. Compromise is the soul of politics, but compromising core American values is unacceptable.
Member (R-Iowa), House of Representatives, 1977 to 2007
The political establishment must begin by recognizing that it is responsible for the public cry for change. Americans are reaching out for new approaches to governance because we are still engaged in the two longest and most debilitating wars in our history and are still coping with a job-eroding recession. The lessons of these man-made events are self-evident. The case for going to war with a country that did not attack us and attempting to “finance” it with tax cuts was frail. Likewise, the case for allowing large financial institutions to overleverage and play Russian roulette with the economy was nonexistent. The point is that multitrillion-dollar misjudgments were made by a political- ideological complex that misunderstood the national interest and ignored the common good.
That doesn’t mean that all is wrong with the United States or that radical change is the answer. What is needed is better judgment: tax policy that emphasizes fairness rather than social splintering; foreign policy that highlights negotiation rather than military adventurism; politics that is based on shared convictions and mutual respect.
Dysfunctional governance is an American embarrassment. Donald Trump is a flawed candidate, but the establishment must look long and hard in the mirror as it attempts to carve out an alternative path. If Trump’s greatest strength is that he is not thee, perhaps the party would be wise to coalesce around balancing whoever is nominated at the convention with an element of nonpolitical gravitas: a vice presidential choice from the outside, such as Adm. Mike Mullen, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Member (R-Va.), House of Representatives, 2001 to 2014; House majority leader, 2011 to 2014
I don’t believe Donald Trump is a conservative. Many of the ideas he espouses would weaken our economy and security. That said, Republican and conservative “elites” – whoever they may be – are wrong to suggest there is some backroom maneuver that can “stop” Trump or prematurely narrow the field. We need to beat Trump. We beat him by winning votes, and we win votes by highlighting his lack of conservative credentials and offering a better vision.
Voters are justifiably angry. Various politicians and groups have promised voters the moon, with no plan to get there, so that they could take advantage of the inevitable anger that follows. Trump has seized on this. Yet he still doesn’t command a majority. As late deciders have demonstrated, a majority of voters prefer solutions and sound temperament to anger.
There are three months between now and the last primary day, when 303 delegates will be selected – more than Trump won on Super Tuesday. A lot can change in three months. Three months ago, Ben Carson was firmly in second place in polls; today he is out of the race. Just because the momentum is with Trump today doesn’t mean it won’t be against him by the time delegates gather in Cleveland.
White House press secretary, 2001 to 2003
If Donald Trump becomes the GOP nominee, the United States will no longer have a two-party system. We will have three blocs.
One: a liberal bloc that’s home to Hillary Clinton, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. Two: a conservative bloc led by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., and others. And three: a populist bloc that has no fixed ideology but is led by the singular personality of Trump.
Trump is not really a Republican. He is an independent who has leased the title of Republican so that he can temporarily affix it to the campaign he is building. He’s a wrecking ball, swinging through the Republican Party, destroying the GOP positions on entitlement reform, free trade and Planned Parenthood.
But if he’s the nominee, his wrecking ball will swing through the Democratic Party, too. Republicans have long dreamed of growing the party with blue-collar, working-class Americans, and especially against Clinton, Trump has a chance to gain these new voters. Many low- and middle-income workers who know this economy isn’t working for them are Trump voters-in-waiting.
Trump changes everything. He changes the math. He changes the ideology. He changes what’s considered acceptable behavior. The big question is: Can he change who wins the White House?