Trump's false choice for Republicans

Quinnipiac released a series of swing state poll results on Thursday, specifically Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.  For each respective state, voters were asked to choose, in head-to-head contests, between Hillary Clinton and three of the Republican frontrunners – Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, and Marco Rubio.  Not too surprisingly, Bush and Rubio fare well against Clinton, while Trump flounders.

Despite Trump’s success in national polling, he remains an inherently flawed candidate.  Yes, he’s tapped into a sizable wing of the party, unhappy with the Washington establishment.  Yes, his blunt delivery resonates with some voters.  Yes, he has the name recognition and financing to make a serious run for president.  But while he continues to attack other Republicans and alter the policy debate landscape, Democrats are salivating.

They sit around and pray that Donald Trump’s popularity continues to grow.  They think back to the infighting during the 2010 Delaware special Senate election between Chris Coons and Christine O’Donnell.  They think back to the same year, when their majority leader could have lost in the Nevada Senate election if not for Republican tactical errors.  Over the last several years, Republicans have given up several seats because establishment candidates were defeated in primaries by “politicians” who had little chance of winning.

I understand that many of these candidates were moderates, branded with the Republican-In-Name-Only moniker.  Voters didn’t feel that they represented their views anymore, so they sought a change.  But here’s the problem: elections typically involve two chess moves, not one.  Elections are a zero-sum game, and your voice is lost when your candidate loses.  Was Dick Lugar really that bad in Indiana?

Republicans need to think about that second move.  Who can seriously take on the Clinton machine?  Donald Trump’s tone – to use his favorite word – is divisive, compromising large blocs of the electorate that will be needed in the fall of 2016.  His presence only disrupts the party, and the longer he remains “relevant,” the more he hurts the field.

At the end of the day, Republicans are faced with a false choice in these polls.  If Trump wins the Republican nomination or runs an ill-fated third-party attempt, Hillary Clinton will be the forty-fifth president of the United States, and the Republican Party will be left decimated.  Alternatively, conservatives can rally together behind one of their strong candidates and focus their energy on taking back the White House.