US ELECTIONS

The last Republicans holding out hope for an alternative to Trump

GOP heavyweights are all now throwing their support behind the property magnate ahead of July convention

Street painting in Lithuania shows Trump shown kissing Vladimir Putin.
Street painting in Lithuania shows Trump shown kissing Vladimir Putin.INTS KALNINS / REUTERS

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Slowly but surely, the heavyweights of the Republican Party are closing ranks behind Donald Trump in the run-up to July’s official confirmation of his candidacy at the November presidential elections. There is little love lost between the property magnate and former reality show host and the Grand Old Party: former Texas governor Rick Perry described him as a “cancer” just a few months ago; now he and other senior Republicans are talking about Trumpism. Only a small majority is fighting on, hoping for a third candidate: among the names the shrinking anti-Trump camp is proposing are Mitt Romney, Nebraska senator Ben Sasse and New Mexico governor Susana Martínez.

Among the most recent converts to Trump’s cause is Florida senator Marco Rubio, the man considered the Republican Party’s best hope until a few months ago. Trump famously dismissed his rival in the primaries as “little Marco,” mocking the sweats he would break out in during television debates. In turn, Rubio called Trump a fraudster, describing him as a threat to national security should he ever have his finger on the nuclear button.

John McCain, a presidential candidate in 2008 and a former Vietnam prisoner of war, has chosen to ignore Trump’s sarcastic comments about his military record 

Rubio says he is looking forward to speaking at the Republican convention in July at Cleveland, Ohio, when Trump will be formally nominated. He’s not alone in looking to leave the past behind: John McCain, a presidential candidate in 2008 and a former prisoner of war in Vietnam, has chosen to ignore Trump’s sarcastic comments about his military record and is now looking to the future. And like them, dozens of senior Republicans who not long ago mocked Trump or saw him as a threat are now lining up to offer their support having reached the conclusion that it’s either him or Hillary Clinton.

Not that Trump hasn’t reached out to the party: he has promised to appoint conservative judges to the Supreme Court, a body that has more influence over issues such as abortion, gun control and civil rights than the White House or Congress does.

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Among Republicans still to publicly declare their support for Trump is Congressional speaker Paul Ryan, considered by many to be the GOP’s ideologue during the Obama presidencies and the man behind recent proposals to cut social spending, in contrast to the message Trump is spreading about his policies if he becomes president. Ryan has gone so far as to say he shares Trump’s wish to beat Hillary, and most commentators suggest he will come round in the coming weeks. In the meantime, he will be hoping to convert Trump, a man with no clear ideology and able to contradict himself in the same sentence, round to conservative orthodoxy.

Meanwhile, President Obama has been doing his best to counter Trump’s description of the United States as a spent force economically. Returning to Elkhart, the small town in Indiana where he made his first visit as president seven years ago, the president outlined the progress he believes the United States has made over his two terms in office. In 2009, unemployment in Elkhart was almost 20%. Today the figure is 4.1%. Then, just 75% of high school students graduated. The figure is now 90%. Similarly, the number of people unable to pay their mortgages has fallen from 9.5% to 3.7%. Indiana sits amid the post-industrial belt of the Midwest, where Trump’s message has struck a chord with voters angry at what they see as Washington’s failures to address their concerns.

English version by Nick Lyne.

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