Time for Trump, Republicans to come together — somehow: Keith Boag
Divided GOP has to come together behind their candidate
And just like that, it's set.
Absent a spectacular intervention of unforeseeable events — natural or otherwise — the next president of the United States will be either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.
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There is still a handful of primaries left on the calendar this month and next, and Bernie Sanders will continue to chase Clinton through them. But the math of her lead, his deficit and what's left to be decided seem to make her nomination a foregone conclusion.
On the Republican side, Trump's last serious rival, Ted Cruz, bet his political future on the friendly voters of Indiana and got stiff-armed. He went down hard Tuesday night, and has decided to stay down, ceding the nomination to Trump.
Thus the primary season — which didn't start out pretty, soon turned ugly and still doesn't exactly have a bow on it — is nevertheless essentially settled.
Now comes the sifting through of what just happened to see what might be learned about what might happen next.
Electoral map a puzzle
Both Republicans and Democrats are desperate to know whether Trump has turned their core assumptions upside down.
Specifically, has he transformed the electoral map into a whole new kind of puzzle; might states that wouldn't normally be in play become competitive, and states that are already competitive become unknowably volatile?
That is, in fact, what Trump has promised — that Republicans will win in places where they'd been left for dead decades ago. He's boasted he'll win traditionally democratic New York, for example.
How that might threaten Democrats is obvious.
But it might also present problems for Republicans trying to develop a clear campaign message. Who are they now and who is the Trump base they are courting?
In some respects, his approach has looked similar to the "mobilize the base" strategy that the Republican operative Karl Rove advocated in the George W. Bush years.
But the Republican establishment decided after the last election in 2012 that it couldn't rely on simply mobilizing its base anymore, that its future lay in expanding that base. Those Republicans wanted a party that would reach out to Hispanics, for example, and not threaten to round up their relatives, deport them back to Mexico and then wall them off.
That difference lies close to the heart of what divided Trump and the establishment in the first place. It's been covered extensively.
But now Trump and that part of the party that he campaigned so hard against must live together as a team.
Trump isn't even a conservative
Some are coming around to him, believing he might really have put his finger on something new and magical in the country.
In a radio discussion this week, Matt Schlapp of the American Conservative Union said he'd come to see that Trump's blunt talk about immigration might be visionary.
Leslie Sanchez, a Hispanic Republican who says there are many Hispanics who consider themselves American citizens first, said of Trump: "There may be a bigger movement in terms of who supports this type of candidate than people anticipate."
She seemed willing to follow Trump's lead and suggested that party pollsters might have something to learn from him about where to find hidden pockets of people who could be turned into enthusiastic Republican voters.
Still, the differences between Trump and the party are sizable. He's not even a conservative, and yet he will top the ticket of a party that has entrenched itself in many states by moving steadily rightward for several elections.
It's possible Trump and the Republicans will find their groove at the convention in Cleveland in July. Or maybe they'll just find more opportunities for nasty fights about the party platform and where their brightest future lies.
In the end, they may have to fall back on their loathing for Hillary Clinton to bind them together.
Trump might yet turn out to be their best choice to run against her as, in the words of his spokesman Jeffrey Lord, "the queen of the status quo." There's not much about Trump that's status quo.
But Clinton is better prepared for that challenge now than she might have been. Thanks to Bernie Sanders, Clinton has a new sense of what it is about the status quo that has angered and energized so many voters.
That could be priceless prep for the coming campaign.