Republicans split over potential Trump effect on U.S. election outcome

Some U.S. conservatives are predicting a Trump nomination will hurt Republicans’ chances in the November but former U.S. ambassador David Wilkins says both frontrunners - Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton - are so disliked it’s hard to predict which party will sit this one out.

David Frum warns of ‘serious toll down the ballot’ if Trump wins nomination

Former US ambassador to Canada David Wilkins, on what so-called "establishment" Republicans will do if Donald Trump wins the nomination. 8:54

The Republican Party is having a collective nervous breakdown.

At least according to one insider, the journalist and former George Bush speech writer, David Frum.

With Donald Trump continuing to poll ahead of Ted Cruz in advance of Tuesday's primary in Indiana, the billionaire has already boasted the race is over.

That's giving some in the party heart palpitations.

"There will be a lot of people who can't stomach it," Frum told CBC News Network's Power & Politics. Frum believes some prominent Republicans will make their peace with Donald Trump, but others will defect.

"It will be an interesting coalition because some of the people who can't stomach it will be the most conservative people in the Republican Party, and some of them will be the least conservative."

'Serious toll down the ballot'

But more worrying for Republicans still, is Frum's prediction that those who don't like their party's pick for president — women and the socially conservative in particular — just won't show up on Nov. 8th.

In a country were citizens not only vote for their president on election day, but also some senators, all 435 members of the House of Representatives and some governors — it means Republican senators and representatives in tight races could lose out to Democrats.

"The great danger is what happens to the down-ballot candidates. Americans don't, these days, typically split their ballots," Frum said. "What mostly happens is if people don't like their presidential choices they just don't come … There could be a very serious toll down the ballot."

Frum points to tight Senate races in Ohio and Wisconsin as being possible victims of a Trump nomination. 

But former U.S. ambassador to Canada David Wilkins disagrees, he told Power & Politics host Rosemary Barton there's just as good a chance that Democratic voters will stay home.

'A lot of people don't like either of them'

"The same thing is going to happen with Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton," he said. "What's historic about this race is the likely two contenders, Trump and Clinton, have the highest unfavourable (ratings) of any candidate ever in our history… A lot of people don't like either one of them, so which of those people is going to stay home?"

Ambassador Wilkins was a Republican member of the South Carolina House of Representatives for 25 years. He says he will support whoever wins his party's nomination, and thinks Trump can beat Hillary Clinton, despite his unfavourable ratings with women.

"He is increasing the pie so to speak. There are more people voting for the first time for Trump," Wilkins said. "So that is the X-factor. If he brings those people in, that sort of changes some of the dynamics."

Frum agrees Trump is changing the U.S. political landscape.

"We've had a very static map in American politics for a long, long time. And Donald Trump is like a whirlwind," Frum said. "The map is being remade before our eyes."

Former ambassador Wilkins has one piece of advice for Canadians watching events south of the border unfold.

"You just sit back and enjoy the festivities here because it's going to even get more interesting."

You can watch the full interviews with David Frum and Ambassador Wilkins in the players above and below. 

David Frum discusses what Donald Trump is doing to the Republican party 9:46