Alarmed Republican leadership rally against Donald Trump

Agencies DETROIT/Washington | Updated on January 20, 2018 Published on March 03, 2016

Mitt Romney (file photo)

Mitt Romney to speak on 'state of the presidential race'

Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney plans to deliver a rebuke of 2016 party front-runner Donald Trump on Thursday in a high-profile display of establishment Republican unease with the incendiary New York billionaire.

Billed as a major speech by the 2012 nominee, Romney's appearance in Utah comes on the day that Trump and his three remaining rivals, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and John Kasich, share a debate stage in Detroit.

The 9 p.m. EST (0200 GMT Friday) debate, hosted by Fox News, will be the candidates' first face-to-face gathering since Super Tuesday nominating contests this week that gave extra momentum to Trump but did not knock out his rivals.

Last ditch effort

An alarmed Republican party leadership appeared to have ganged up against Donald Trump who has won 10 of 11 state primaries so far, in a last ditch effort following his “Super Tuesday” wins to prevent him from becoming the nominee for the November presidential poll.

After a month of a series of primary elections which began with the Iowa caucus on February 1, real estate magnate Trump to the surprise of political pundits and to the shock of the established party leadership has emerged as the Republican presidential frontrunner.

His rallies across the country have drawn thousands of people many more times than the other party candidates.

After Super Tuesday, Trump has 319 delegates with him, as against his rivals: Tea Party favourite Ted Cruz (226), and Marco Rubio (110) who is an establishment favourite.

To become the party’s presidential nominee, 69—year—old Trump needs 1,237 of total 2,472 delegates who would be elected during the Republican presidential primaries and caucus in all 50 states.

Trump now needs 918 delegates, which many political experts believe is doable given his national popularity.

Four states — Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana and Maine — go to polls on Saturday and Trump is leading in three of them, where victory would bring him a step closer to earning his party’s presidential nomination.

Divisive rhetoric

Trump on the other hand exuded confidence that he is on his way to become the presidential nominee and that he would unite and expand the party, quite contrary to the apprehension of the party leadership.

“The voters in America will not allow them to be bulldozed, rather they will make sure the Republican career politicians and those who are put up by the establishment in the general election in November are defeated,” said Dave Makkar, a founding member of ‘Indian Americans for Trump’

“Trump campaign is a movement to change Washington and throw out the ruling elite and the lobbyist,” Makkar said.

The White House too shared the apprehension of the Republican leadership.

“As many Republicans have said, Mr Trump’s presence at the top of the ticket may not end up being particularly helpful to them,” said White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest. “The divisive rhetoric that we’ve heard from Mr Trump is directly contrary to the values that this country has long defended,” he said.

Detroit debate

Some party leaders and donors are critical of Trump's positions on trade and immigration, including his calls to build a wall between the United States and Mexico, deport 11 million illegal immigrants and temporarily bar Muslims from entering the country.

At the debate, Trump, 69, will be questioned for the first time since last year by Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly, who angered him with her questioning at the Republicans' first debate on Aug. 6, prompting him to cancel participation in a debate in Iowa in January, a move that appeared to cost him some votes.

Romney, 68, has kept a low profile since losing to Obama in 2012. He flirted with a 2016 campaign but ultimately decided the country needed fresh leaders.

Sources familiar with his thinking said Romney, in private conservations with friends and allies, had become increasingly disturbed at the prospect of Trump becoming the party's nominee.

They said he would specifically cite Trump's refusal to release his tax returns and his initial reluctance to disavow an endorsement from a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan white supremacist group.

Romney has been leaning toward endorsing Rubio, said two sources close to the former Massachusetts governor. Sources said he was not expected to endorse anyone in his speech.

One senior Republican source familiar with his thinking said Romney had debated privately whether his endorsement would help, since pro-Romney voters had already gotten behind Rubio, 44, a US senator from Florida.

In his speech at 10:30 a.m. MST (1730 GMT) in Salt Lake City, Romney is expected to single out for praise both Rubio, and Cruz, 45, a U.S. senator from Texas, and possibly Kasich, 63, the Ohio governor.

Trump has consistently targeted Romney for criticism throughout his run, saying he should have defeated Obama in 2012 but that Romney made mistakes that killed his chances.

Sparks could fly

The Detroit debate will be one more opportunity for Rubio and Cruz to try to slow Trump's momentum. They are the last two anti-Trump candidates standing in what has been a bruising nomination battle. Kasich has largely steered clear of the anti-Trump effort and tried to remain above the fray.

Rubio went on the attack against Trump at the last debate on February 25 and has attempted to establish himself as the main Trump alternative by labelling him as a "con artist" who has escaped serious vetting by a news media fixated on his star power and brash rhetoric.

Veteran Republican foreign policy strategist Richard Grenell said the debate at Detroit's Fox Theater could be a lively one.

"Since Trump is clearly on a roll, he needs to pivot and start uniting the Republican Party and alleviate the concerns that he can't act presidential," Grenell said. "Rubio and Cruz are going to need to take each other out in order to whittle down the field."

Trump's campaign on Monday reached out to House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, the country's top elected Republican, after days of criticism of Trump from Ryan. At a news conference on Tuesday, Trump said Ryan could either get along with him or "pay a price."

"We have heard from the campaign, but the two have not yet spoken," said Ryan spokesman Brendan Buck. "We expect the speaker to be in touch with all the remaining candidates soon to discuss our efforts to build a bold conservative policy agenda for 2017."

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Published on March 03, 2016
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