Donald Trump’s relations with the Republican Party — and his political fortunes — worsened dramatically Wednesday, as party leaders fretted openly about the inability of his campaign staff to control him and even began to discuss what to do if their unpredictable nominee suddenly quit the race.
“A sense of panic is rising” among GOP elected officials and operatives, said Ed Rogers, a former Republican White House official.
“Serious, senior lawyers” have begun researching how the rules would work if the party had to replace Trump on the ticket, a senior GOP figure in Washington with close ties to the party hierarchy confirmed.
Though the chance of Trump quitting remains extremely unlikely, the fact that Republican officials were conducting such semi-open discussions spoke loudly about how far panic has spread, prompted by Trump’s actions of the last few days: his extended quarrel with the family of a soldier killed in action, his pointed refusal to endorse House Speaker Paul D. Ryan and Sen. John McCain in their GOP primaries, and even less weighty matters like telling the mother of a crying baby to leave a rally. His volatility — and wishful thinking on the part of some — forced party leaders to reckon with any possible turn of events, including Trump ending his candidacy.
Republican officials can’t force Trump out of the race, and the strong support he still has from many GOP voters makes elected officials reluctant to publicly oppose him. But their plotting makes clear the extent to which he is likely to be running alone, without the kind of help he was depending on from the party’s more organized campaign apparatus.
“He just seems willfully destructive and willfully sort of sadistic about other Republicans,” said Rick Wilson, a Florida-based GOP consultant who has spoken out against Trump for more than a year. “Finally, people are like, ‘No more. We’re done. We’re not playing this game anymore.’”
All of the flare-ups point to a singular frustration: Trump’s refusal to take advice.