Super Tuesday: As Trump keeps winning, Republican elites can only wince
Bombastic New York mogul says he can be 'unifier' after capturing 7 more states
In his victory speech Tuesday night, Donald Trump nailed precisely the Republican predicament.
"If I'm going to win all of these states with tremendous numbers," he said, "You know, we're a democracy, I think it's awfully hard to say, 'That's not the person we want to lead the party!'"
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As his spokesman, Jeffrey Lord, added on CNN, the Trump wave is not some "hostile takeover" — it's coming from inside the party; Trump is the future the party is choosing.
With every primary win — he added seven more on Super Tuesday — he moves closer to making the Republican Party his, branding it like a new addition to his string of TRUMP hotels and fancy TRUMP golf courses.
Only the brand isn't just about wealth, celebrity and extravagant self-indulgence anymore; his opponents have rebranded him as racist, misogynist, nativist, xenophobic and a liar. There is evidence for all of it.
Millions of Americans caught a glimpse of where this might be heading during an extraordinarily passionate argument on CNN while the results were pouring in.
Trump's man Lord and Van Jones, a former Barack Obama adviser, tangled about race, the Ku Klux Klan and who was really responsible for the divisive tone and tensions of the campaign.
Other guests on the program sat silent, astonished at the intensity of the argument as it went on, and on, and on.
Lord and Jones are typically level-headed and self-composed people, but it was easy to imagine uglier confrontations between those of more violent temperament as the campaign roils the country.
Republicans who see Trump as a disastrous choice have all but run out of ideas for stopping him.
The notion that the Republican field might yet shrink and the anti-Trump voters line up behind a single candidate such as Florida Senator Marco Rubio pretty much collapsed Tuesday when the primary results gave all of them a reason to stay in the race.
Senator Ted Cruz declared himself the only one capable of beating Trump when he won in his home state of Texas and then Oklahoma, followed by Alaska much later. He's not getting out of anyone's way.
Rubio, who hadn't won anything going into Super Tuesday pulled off a surprise victory in Minnesota and promised, "We're going to be in this race for a long time."
Ohio Gov. John Kasich wasn't expected to win anything and he didn't. But he finished a strong second in Vermont so he's not going anywhere, either.
It's all wonderful news for Trump who can look forward to his opponents splitting their vote again in two weeks in primaries in Rubio's Florida and Kasich's Ohio.
Even better, March 15 is a "winner take all" proposition: A win with just 35 per cent of the vote in most states will net the winner 100 per cent of the delegates.
Super Tuesday made it clear that no candidate is likely to get more delegates than Trump in the primaries.
The only remaining strategy for those who want to stop him is to try to prevent him from winning a majority of the delegates before the Republican convention in July, and then beating him there in a brokered convention.
Former Utah governor Mike Leavitt has suggested the best way to do that might be for all the candidates to stay in the race right up until the convention so there are no "free" delegates to back Trump.
It is a long shot and Trump doesn't seem the least worried about it.
In his victory speech Tuesday night there were signs he thinks he has the nomination already in the bag. For the first time he pivoted to a more conciliatory message on such things as Planned Parenthood ("very good work for millions of women") and talked about his desire to heal the party around him for the election ("when we unify, there's nobody that's going to beat us.")
That seems impossible right now.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's decision to get behind Trump was so controversial, it cost him some of his most important political allies.
A Republican Senator, Ben Sasse, has warned he might leave the party over Trump.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has reportedly said he and others will distance themselves from Trump if he's the nominee.
And just because he's a rival doesn't mean people will dismiss Cruz when he says of Trump: "America shouldn't have a president whose words would make you embarrassed if your children repeated them."
Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton rolled through the Southern Democratic primaries, racking up delegates in all the states where there were large minority populations. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders won more states than expected — four instead of one — but Clinton seems likelier than ever to be the nominee.
Republicans think she is vulnerable because she has exceptionally high negatives in public opinion polls. But they are close to nominating the only candidate in the race whose negatives are higher.
Former Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal told the New York Times: "Nominating Donald Trump is the best gift the Republican Party could give to Hillary Clinton."