House Speaker Paul Ryan said he's "just not ready" to support Trump, becoming the highest elected Republican official to raise concerns about Trump since he became the party's likely standard-bearer this week....Bill Kristol may still be hoping that Mitt Romney will run third-party, but the plans for that third-party campaign seem to be centering on Gary Johnson, the eccentric former New Mexico who's likely to be on the ballot already as the Libertarian Party candidate. Putting a little establishment GOP muscle behind Johnson isn't going to tip the race into the House -- it just might deplete Trump's vote total a bit more and give Hillary Clinton an even bigger victory. That seems to be the likely outcome of all this Republican refusenik activity.
CNN reached out to 16 Republican elected officials, leaders and major fundraisers associated with former Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush and former Vice President Dick Cheney. Speaking on background, none of them said they were planning to go to this summer's Republican convention....
2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney declared he'd skip the convention, joining at least three prior Republican nominees -- John McCain and both Presidents Bush -- in declining to attend the event....
Looming over it all is the prospect of a third-party campaign by a conservative intent on hewing closer to traditional Republican principles than Trump.
[Erick] Erickson, the conservative blogger, told CNN -- without naming them -- that members of Congress have joined influential Republican members of the #NeverTrump movement in seeking out a candidate.
"Planning is continuing for a third party," he said.
Clinton's reaction? Well, it's disturbing -- and also naive:
Hillary Clinton’s supporters in recent days have been making a furious round of calls to top Bush family donors to try to convince them that she represents their values better than Donald Trump, multiple sources in both parties told POLITICO.Billmon thinks this is a slick sellout of Democratic voters:
The moves come as Clinton and the Democratic Party try to take advantage of deep unease among establishment Republicans on Wall Street and elsewhere with Trump’s emergence as the presumptive Republican nominee....
Clinton spokesman Josh Schwerin did not deny the calls were happening. “There's no official outreach from the campaign but I would not be at all surprised if our supporters are doing it on their own.”
@edroso Clintonites have something grander in mind, I think - hegemonic center party, with GOP RW marginalized & Dem left even more neutered— Billmon (@billmon1) May 6, 2016
Well, if that's the plan, I think the Clintonites are in for a surprise. Maybe some of the donors will give to the Clinton campaign. But ten minutes after Trump concedes, D.C. Republicans will turn on Clinton, exactly the way they turned on Obama just after he was elected. The GOP right won't be marginalized -- it's going to be all hands on deck as Republicans freeze Clinton out and work hard to make her a one-term president.
(And no, a Sanders victory would make no difference, because marginalization is exactly what his fate would have been.)
Ryan and the other refuseniks are writing off the top of the ticket for this year. For this year, they want to sell an Establishment message to persuadable voters who are turned off by Trump. The hope is that angry voters will vote GOP downballot in solidarity with Trump and non-crazy voters will vote GOP in solidarity with the Ryan refuseniks.
And then, soon enough, the party hopes that everyone will forget the whole Trump thing and remember that they all really, really hate Hillary Clinton. She's being teed up to be the embodiment of evil in a thousand attack ads in 2018 and 2020. To fight back, she's going to have to learn that there won't be any grand bargains, and she'll have to grind out any policy wins the hard way -- precisely what Barack Obama learned.
Or maybe we'll luck out and the Two Faces of Republicanism strategy won't prevent a congressional bloodbath. But in any case, Republicans won't play nice once this election is over. They never do.