Republicans were hoping for unity around Donald Trump after he effectively locked up the nomination, but with less than a month to go before the convention, togetherness is in short supply for the GOP.
First, there are outright defections from the party. Sure, the people who are publicly refusing to vote for Trump are not sitting politicians, but these are still significant members of the party, and this sort of open dissent has no modern precedent.
And as the election rages on, there could well be new additions to this club, particularly among politicians who face tough reelections.
What may be more significant is the number of high-profile GOP politicians who have said they won’t attend the convention in July or they won’t speak at it, a clear sign that they don’t want their names associated with the person who would normally be considered the head of their party.
Who has actually left the party?
That depends on what you mean by “left.”
The biggest name to actually change registration from Republican because of Trump is columnist George Will, a Pulitzer-Prize winner. He reportedly declared the GOP “not my party” at an event because it nominated Trump, a man he’s routinely criticized.
Many people have no idea who George Will actually is, and thus couldn’t care less.
And obviously your average Trump voter would actually cheer on his exit as just another establishment casualty.
It was undoubtedly Stephen Colbert who had the best jokes about it, though.
The other group of defectors in this category is Republicans who have not sworn off being a Republican but have declared they’ll vote for Hillary Clinton. This includes Former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, who served under George W. Bush, former top-level George W. Bush official Richard Armitrage, and Brent Scowcroft, a top national security adviser for a number of Republican presidents going back to Gerald Ford.
Admittedly that’s not a roster of well-known people.
Then there’s the people who won’t endorse or vote for him, which, so far, includes:
- the Bushes (both Georges and Jeb)
- Ben Sasse
- Mitt Romney
- Mark Kirk of Illinois
- Jeff Flake of Arizona
- John Kasich (so far) of Ohio
- Charlie Baker of Massachusetts
- Larry Hogan of Maryland
- The Koch brothers
- A score of pundits, from the Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol to Glenn Beck
- A list of people who say they simply won’t give an affirmative “yes” or “no” to supporting Trump, including Condoleezza Rice and Gov. Rick Snyder of Michigan
- Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who famously had this to say:
Who has said they won’t speak at the Republican Convention?
Equally bad for Trump is that many Republicans have said they’re not interested in speaking at the GOP Convention this year, because typically you’d have to fight for such a platform and it’s considered an ideal springboard to national prominence.
And many more have said they’re skipping the convention altogether.
As Politico and others have reported, there are a notable number of GOP heavy hitters sitting out the convention or saying they won’t speak on Trump’s behalf.
- You have Romney, the Bushes, and McCain, which means every past nominee going back to 1988
- Marco Rubio
- Ted Cruz (but that could change)
- Obviously manv of the names from the previous list, including Lindsey Graham
- Rob Portman of Ohio, who has been talked about as a vice presidential candidate, who spoke at the last convention, and who comes from the state where the convention is hosted
- Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, a high-profile congressman who led the latest Benghazi investigation
- Mark Sanford of South Carolina, a former two-term governor
- A slew of other high-profile House members, including Mia Love, Congress’ only black woman, and New York Rep. Elise Stefanik, who helped write the party’s platform at the last convention
- Mississippi Sen. Roger Wicker
- Oregon Rep. Greg Walden
- Florida Rep. Carlos Curbelo
- New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte
- Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner
- South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley
- Senator Majority Whip John Cornyn
Will any of this matter?
That’s the real question. Obviously Trump thrives on anti-establishment sentiment, and his voters don’t give a damn about whether John Cornyn will attend the GOP Convention. They don’t give a damn about their being a GOP Convention, for that matter.
The problem for him will be with whipping up enthusiasm for undecided voters – particularly independents – who still find Trump alarming, because everything that I just laid out only serves to underscore the idea that he’s a joke in human form.
That will probably remain his key problem all the way to Nov. 2.