This is what a full-blown panic looks like. More than 75 Republicans, including former lawmakers and senior White House officials, have added their names to a letter urging the Republican National Committee to abandon Donald Trump, the Washington Post reports. Their argument is strategic: Trump is hurtling toward a devastating loss in the presidential race and the party should do what it can now to salvage its Congressional majorities by dedicating all of its resources to them instead.
But it’s also the latest in a series of brutal assessments of Trump’s candidacy from GOP elders, who in the letter cite their nominee’s “divisiveness, recklessness, incompetence, and record-breaking unpopularity” and point to his habit of “deliberately and repeatedly lying about scores of issues, large and small.” The letter’s organizers are still gathering signatures and aim to deliver it next week.
There’s a real chance the RNC heeds their request. Party chairman Reince Priebus raised the possibility with Trump in a phone call earlier this month, TIME reports in its new cover story. Trump had just gone out of his way to decline endorsing House Speaker Paul Ryan, a close friend of Priebus, in his primary. The GOP boss told the nominee that internal polling showed he was on his way to losing the election and explained the RNC has a responsibility to all the party’s candidates. The two camps are set to meet today in Orlando in what one campaign source described to Politico as an “emergency meeting.”
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Recall that this week was supposed to tee up Trump’s latest “pivot” to a more measured general election mode, featuring the candidate cranking down the bombast and sticking to the script. That began Monday with his economic address in Detroit — delivered without incident from a teleprompter — and lasted until early that evening, when Trump returned to his Twitter account. He’s since suggested “Second Amendment people” could take matters into their own hands to stop a President Hillary Clinton from appointing liberal judges and insisted for days that President Obama literally founded ISIS before reversing course Friday, calling it sarcasm. The agenda for today’s Orlando huddle reportedly includes how to goose the campaign’s ground game. But there’s no mechanical fix for the problem at the top of the operation.