To every Republican running in any election in 2016, it’s imperative that you think about the current political atmosphere through a lens of discernment and logic. Attachment to Donald Trump will have no positive effects on your own campaign by endorsing him or even giving him lukewarm support now. On the other hand, the potential negatives to your campaign are clearly present and there’s a good chance that it will get even worse between now and election day.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re a straight-ticket GOP true believer who bleeds Republican red no matter what or if you’re one who takes every issue at face value. From now until very close to the election, you must keep your distance from Trump. I’ll go over the many logical reasons for doing so, but let’s first look at the potential negatives of showing even the mildest form of support.
If Trump Doesn’t Implode, You’re Not Safe
One would be hard-pressed to find a major Presidential candidate who’s had as much potential for disaster as either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. Clinton’s disasters are tied to her past crimes and in many ways it’s out of her hands whether or not she suffers an implosion-by-indictment. Trump is different. Throughout the campaign, he’s done and said things that will be used against him until November. One does not have to go back to his history to find damning statements; in the last year alone he’s been able to accumulate ammunition for Democrats to use against him and those who support him.
If you’re a Republican candidate for any office, imagine your competitor running an ad that shows Trump making fun of POWs, mocking a disabled reporter, insulting Mexicans, insulting women, questioning the integrity of a judge over his heritage… you get the point. Now, imagine the ad ending with a sound bite of you supporting or even endorsing him. At that point, it wouldn’t matter what your policy proposals were. It wouldn’t matter how many things you’d accomplished or how often you’d helped your constituents. Your opinions will no longer matter. Your opinions would now be associated with Trump’s opinions and there’s nothing you could do to diffuse it. What’s worse is that your future would not be tied to Trump’s because outside of battleground states, many Trump-supporting Republican candidates will lose by association regardless of how Trump does in the state.
Many believe that Trump will continue to accumulate negatives. He seems to get bored every time he acts “more Presidential” and inevitably reverts back to his modus operandi. Let’s say for the sake of argument that he turns over a new leaf and acts like an adult rather than a petulant child for the remainder of the campaign. The negatives are still there. The sound bites will still be used against you.
If Trump Implodes, You’re Toast
What if Trump goes too far as he’s almost done on several occasions. What if a scandal rears its ugly head shortly before November; there are stories that are likely being held by liberal mainstream media that won’t be released until it’s too late for the Republicans to recover. What if Trump’s tax returns get leaked? What if he’s made to sound like a fool during debates? What if…
There are so many potential derailments that could be lurking around the corner. If any of them come out, candidates in tight races who have supported or endorsed him might as well hang up their political ambitions now. The sad part is that if Clinton is indicted and the country has to choose between her scandal and Trump’s scandal, he could still end up winning. However, those who supported him will be irrecoverably damaged.
The Pragmatic Road
Utah Congresswoman Mia Love is taking the pragmatic approach. She’s not speaking ill of Trump any more (even though she voted for Ted Cruz in the primary), but she’s giving up her delegate slot and is not going to the GOP convention.
“I don’t see any upsides to it,” Love said. “I don’t see how this benefits the state.”
It isn’t about benefiting the state. It’s about avoiding the questions that will come at the convention where she will be cornered into endorsing Trump. Rather than risk it, she’d rather sacrifice the potential national spotlight in favor of not attaching her name to Trump’s. It’s the smart move for someone in her position as a rising star who is locked in a tight battle for reelection. It’s the type of move that every GOP candidate should consider depending on the dynamics of their own race. If they’re going to be cornered at the convention, don’t go. If the question about Trump pops up elsewhere, prepare a good answer. That’s the first stage of the pragmatic approach. We’ll get to the next stage shortly, but first let’s look at some of the reasons that it makes sense to NOT endorse, support, or attach to the Trump campaign in any way… for now:
- The anti-Hillary vote is not necessarily anti-Democrat: There are currently a large block of Trump “supporters” who are claiming that Trump might not be perfect but at least he’s not Hillary. This is a righteous perspective for a voter, but it’s dangerous for a candidate. Even lukewarm support for Trump is support for Trump that can and will be used against candidates. Hillary-hating Independents or moderates might vote for Trump out of fear, but they won’t necessarily vote for those who supported him. If anything, they might vote against them for the sake of checks and balances.
- The anti-Trump vote WILL BE an anti-Republican vote: The reverse of the previous bullet is not true. Those who oppose Trump will not only oppose him but will also oppose those who support him. There is a real fear that’s associated with Trump, so candidates who give him even the slightest level of support will be associated with being in his camp. Many of the anti-Trump voters will try to completely obliterate his political existence. That existence extends down-ticket.
- Your endorsement will not help Trump: Presidential candidates do not need endorsements from those running down-ticket. It doesn’t help them unless it’s a cross-party endorsement, while a lack of those endorsements doesn’t hurt them. Endorsements and support from down-ticket candidates is for the sake of the down-ticket candidate. It’s about riding on the coattails of the Presidential candidate’s support. In this rare case, Trump’s potential down-ticket negatives outweigh the positives.
- Trump will likely not reward you for your endorsement: Unless you’re Jeff Sessions, Chris Christie, Newt Gingrich, or any of a handful of supporters who have a spot waiting for them in Trump’s administration, you’re not going to get anything from Trump for your support. He won’t be helping you win. He won’t remember you if he wins. If you’re a big-enough name, you’ll get a press release and a mention during a speech. If you’re not, well, you won’t.
- By focusing strictly on your constituents, you’re own campaign can shine: The moment that a candidate supports Trump in any way, their opinions no longer matter as much. They will get asked to react to “this thing that Trump did” or “that faux pas that Trump made.” Their entire candidacy gets framed by their attachment to Trump. By withholding support, they retain their independence and can keep the focus on how they will handle the issues.
The Biggest Reason to Withhold Support
Which has more impact: supporting Trump today, in July, or even in September, or throwing your support his way in the week or two prior to election day? Think hard before you answer that question, though the answer should be obvious. Let’s look at the scenarios…
If you withhold your support and Trump implodes, you’ll be seen as the type of candidate that makes smart decisions, that follows your conscience rather than the mandates of the party, and that puts your constituents ahead of the national narrative.
If you withhold your support and Trump doesn’t implode, you can make a big announcement just prior to election day that you now feel comfortable supporting him for President. Here’s the thing about support: in this society of short attention spans, the impact of support for any candidate, in particular one like Trump, will be strongest in the one or two weeks following the endorsement. His supporters will instantly embrace you for seeing the error of your ways. In fact, they might embrace you even more fervently than if you’d been a Trump supporter from the beginning.
I’ve heard dozens of attempts to not support Trump. Almost all of them are poor. First and foremost, not supporting Trump will be seen as supporting Hillary if it’s not worded properly. You have to get that out of the way immediately. Second, you have to give a reason for not supporting Trump at this time that doesn’t sound like you’re scared of attachment to him. Finally, you have to leave the door open in a way that puts the onus on Trump to earn your support. No matter what, you cannot appear to be indecisive.
Here’s a quick example of an answer to the question, “Do you support Trump for the Presidency?”
I am opposed to Hillary Clinton, the liberal agenda, and most importantly to [insert your opponent’s name]. Trump is our party’s nominee but I am going to do what’s best for the people I hope to represent. I agree with some of what Trump is saying and I disagree with others. From now until the election I will be watching him very closely to see if his ideas and his ability to deliver on them are aligned with what’s best for the people of [insert city, district, or state].
The follow up question will be something like, “So you won’t vote for Clinton and you might not vote for Trump unless he changes his ways?”
At this point none of the candidates have demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt that they will be a great President. I’m hopeful that Trump will demonstrate the ability to become a great President but as of today he still needs to put out a platform that he sticks to and that he can deliver on for the most part.
The “gotcha” question where they’ll try to paint you into a corner will be, “If the vote were today, who would you vote for?”
Thankfully I live in a world where election day is in November and impossible hypotheticals are left to the journalists and Democrats, but if the vote were today there’s not enough information to make a decision. It wouldn’t be Hillary. Trump’s positions haven’t been locked in yet, so in the fantasy world you envision I likely wouldn’t vote for the Presidency.
Once a candidate decides to hop on the Trump train, they’ll get all of the negatives associated without the benefit of any positives. If they withhold their support properly and use it to leverage Trump towards a more conservative perspective, more Republicans will win their elections regardless of what happens to the Presidency.
Author’s Note: There is no practical scenario in which I would personally support Trump. The purpose of this article is to express a pragmatic approach for current GOP candidates across the board to win as many races as possible. Regardless of whether you’re a #NeverTrumper, a card-carrying Trumpster, or anywhere in between, this perspective can help America by getting as many Republicans into office as possible. I encourage you to share it with their campaigns through email, social media, or any way you see fit.
Image Credit: Trump Train USA