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Why the GOP can't stop Donald Trump, in one anecdote

Maine Gov. Paul LePage at a press conference.
Maine Gov. Paul LePage at a press conference.
(Derek Davis/Portland Press Herald via Getty)

On Saturday, February 20, Maine Gov. Paul LePage gave a passionate speech to a group of fellow governors, suggesting they unite against Donald Trump.

On Friday, February 26, Maine Gov. Paul LePage endorsed Donald Trump.

Seriously.

Alexander Burns, Maggie Haberman, and Jonathan Martin of the New York Times have uncovered some of the increasingly frantic, but constantly forestalled, efforts within the Republican Party establishment to keep Trump from getting the nomination. According to the article, published today, LePage was one of the most recent people to call to stop Trump:

At a meeting of Republican governors [on Feb. 20], Paul R. LePage of Maine called for action. Seated at a long boardroom table at the Willard Hotel, he erupted in frustration over the state of the 2016 race, saying Mr. Trump’s nomination would deeply wound the Republican Party. Mr. LePage urged the governors to draft an open letter "to the people," disavowing Mr. Trump and his divisive brand of politics.

The suggestion was not taken up.

But a week later, according to Politico, LePage had decided the real threats to the Republican "brand" were Trump's leading competitors:

LePage called Trump’s primary rivals, Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, part of the problem and accused them of "killing the brand" of the Republican Party with their blitz on Trump during the debate Thursday night.

"I think there’s a mini-revolution going on in our country," LePage said. "We’re saying enough is enough with the gridlock. Washington is broken."

LePage's flip-flop isn't necessarily a bellwether for other anti-Trump Republican figures like Karl Rove. LePage is a bit of a loose cannon, to say the least; it's actually more surprising that he ever opposed Trump than that he ultimately endorsed him.

But it's absolutely true that the more inevitable Trump's nomination looks, the more Republicans will endorse him — even if they wish he weren't the nominee. And the more establishment Republicans endorse him, the more inevitable his nomination will look.

You can already see that most establishment Republicans fear Trump more than they hate him. They're not willing to risk coming out against him now; they assume the damage they would do to his campaign is less than the damage he can do to them if he wins.

That's the most damning thing about the New York Times's LePage anecdote: He suggested that governors get together and write an open letter, but the other governors apparently weren't willing to go that far. If the person who is willing to stick his neck out to stop Trump defects to the pro-Trump side, who, exactly, do Republicans expect is going to stop him?


Correction: This post originally referred to Friday, February 20, and Friday, February 27, which were not dates that existed. The author concedes it's been a long week.

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