Highlights of an essay sent by long-time GOP consultant Alex Castellanos to his NewRepublican.org mailing list:
When Tides Recede at Conventions
Most convention goers, especially unbound delegates, are proud members of the GOP establishment. They want to avoid conflict that might destroy their party — and their votes will never be as valuable. If Donald Trump is only a handful or two short of the delegates he needs, it is in both in his interest and also the GOP’s to announce a done deal before the party starts in Ohio. If he’s close, Republican regulars will mount a serious effort to avoid a battle on the convention floor.
However, if Mr. Trump is one hundred or more votes away from the nomination, it is unlikely he can find the delegates to get the ball in the end zone on the first ballot. He will turn the ball over on downs though nearly at the goal line. (OK, no more sports metaphors.) On the second ballot, he drops 200 or 300 votes or more and starts bleeding. Ultimately, he bleeds to death on the convention floor — which you think would be good news for the candidate in second place, Senator Ted Cruz, unless, of course, you’ve met Senator Ted Cruz.
Neither this convention nor the Republican Party wants Ted Cruz as their nominee for President. Republican regulars suspect that in a general election, he would be Richard Nixon without the charm, Barry Goldwater with diminished powers of attraction. Cruz, they fear, is the narrowest possible expression of the Republican Party’s appeal and would lead the ticket to slaughter. It is a testament to the routine occurrence of the impossible this election that the candidate most party regulars initially feared as the worst possible nominee is now their both their runner-up and Miss Congeniality. If Ted Cruz really wants to win this election, he should buy a disguise and stop campaigning until Christmas. Perhaps Senator Cruz has also figured that out: His lead has grown in Wisconsin as he has ducked FOX’s Sean Hannity offer to give him an hour of free television for 10 straight days.
Senator Cruz has no value beyond being an alternative to Donald Trump. If Trump collapses, the need for Ted Cruz evaporates, so Cruz is at risk of collapsing, too. Senator Cruz is the unpleasant medicine the Republican Party is willing to swallow when it is sick, but not when it is feeling healthier. As Donald Trump backs out of the convention hall, Cruz is likely to get a run but then fall short, which gives John Kasich his moment. If Trump begins to lose altitude, the convention is likely to turn to Mr. Kasich, an experienced Governor with a solid conservative record and the strongest showing in general election polls against Hillary Clinton. And yet….
If GOP delegates start looking for an alternative to both Trump and Senator Cruz, why settle for Miss Ohio when you could marry Miss America? Why not wipe the slate clean and go for what delegates really want, the Republican Speaker? Former Vice-Presidential candidate Paul Ryan is a larger political figure. He has national experience and appeal. The Speaker has also managed to bring together unruly Republicans in the House, the Capitol’s hotbed of insurrection. Most importantly, he is a fresher face, a new and more promising generation of Republican. He would have a better shot at uniting the Republican Party.
Would Ryan take the nomination? Would he accept a better-than-even shot at being handed the leadership of the free world? Republican can pray. It doesn’t hurt that the House Speaker made this speech last week calling for Party unity and setting himself up as the alternative to Donald Trump. As Ryan said, “This is the system our Founders envisioned. It’s messy. It’s complicated. It’s infuriating at times. And it’s a beautiful thing, too.”
And what about Donald Trump? Does he take the olive branch the convention will inevitably extend to him? Trump’s threats and bluster have value only before the deal is done. After a nominee is chosen, executing his threats brings him nothing. Instead, a gracious exit would be a boon to the two things he seems to love most, his children and his brand, which is lifeblood of the business he is leaving them.
Bolded sections were added for emphasis.