Republican effort to stop Trump ends in failure

Donald Trump's handler has promised a more disciplined candidate going forward; but I wouldn't bet on it.

Donald Trump's initially improbable bid for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination become a de facto reality in Indiana Tuesday night, as the Hoosier state's voters buried the stop-Trump movement in its tracks and drove Sen. Ted Cruz to the sidelines.

On the heels of a sweep of the New York and five other Northeastern states over the previous weeks, the streak based largely on public dissatisfaction and anger toward the political status quo has given Mr. Trump a stranglehold on the Republican Party'sestablishment, with consequences to be determined.

The candidate who has ridden to the brink of nomination on personal insults, threats to foreign elements and racial and gender abuse used a victory night speech to pivot swiftly to what, for him, passes as conciliatory remarks toward his political foes, including Mr. Cruz.

Trump called his prime rival for the nomination "a tough competitor" and predicted he would have a bright future in the GOP, though the widely expressed abhorrence from fellow senators toward Mr. Cruz during the campaign might suggest otherwise.

He also had kind words for Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, whom Mr. Trump earlier had accused of rigging the nomination process in ways that Mr. Cruz could pry away convention delegates from him in certain states. A shakeup in the RNC under Mr. Trump can be considered a possibility.

The Indiana winner, now certain to go into the party's July national convention in Cleveland with the delegate majority required, spent the bulk of his brief remarks once again recounting his string of primary victories like a scorekeeper, with little embellishment on his plan to "make America great again."

To grasp the reins of his recently adopted party, Mr. Trump has taken a page from the book of the famed community organizer Saul Alinsky, who roused the inner-city poor of Chicago and elsewhere, urging them to "rub raw the sores of discontent" and thus shake up officialdom.

In so doing, however, Mr. Trump has orchestrated a deeply divided and pessimistic Republican Party, fearful of going down to electoral defeat in November, costing not only the presidency but also control of the Senate and major losses in the House and in key states.

Headed toward the fall campaign, many old-line party leaders are clinging to widespread Republican antagonism and hostility toward the likely Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, as the basis for an upset in November. Polls indicating continuing voter doubts about her trustworthiness feed that hope.

Tuesday's result in the Indiana Democratic primary, in which she suffered a five percentage point defeat to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, keeps such speculation alive, although Ms. Clinton's wide delegate lead continues to indicate her own nomination is not in jeopardy. Also, a late CNN survey gives her a 13-point lead over Trump.

Unlike Mr. Cruz in the Republican nomination race, Mr. Sanders has vowed he will press on in the Democratic primary season through California and other states including New Jersey. Nevertheless, Ms. Clinton has already begun to pivot her own campaign toward taking on Mr. Trump.

"I'm really focused on moving into the general election," she said on MSNBC, "and I think that we're where we have to be, because we're going to have a tough campaign against a candidate who will literally say and do anything."

With the general expectation now that the fall election will pit Mr. Trump against Ms. Clinton, a focus on their selections of running mates, raised when it appeared they might affect the presidential nominations, can now be addressed in leisure.

Both presumptive nominees can also enjoy, if they so desire, a relative lull in this heated campaign as they gear up for their conventions, neither of which figures to be as combative as it seemed likely to be only days ago. A lot may depend on the temperament of the bombastic Trump, who has displayed a short fuse ever since he has turned from real estate mogul to take-no-prisoners celebrity politician.

His convention manager, Paul Manafort, has promised a more disciplined candidate for the general campaign, saying The Donald has been playing one role on the stump and suggesting the public will see another from now on. But don't bet the rent money on it.

Jules Witcover's latest book is "The American Vice Presidency: From Irrelevance to Power," published by Smithsonian Books. You can respond to this column at juleswitcover@comcast.net.

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