All jokes aside, the Republican Party is officially afraid of Donald Trump.
He has virtually zero chance of winning the presidential nomination. But insiders worry that the loud-mouthed mogul is more than just a minor comedic nuisance on cable news; they fret that he’s a loose cannon whose rants about Mexicans and scorched-earth attacks on his rivals will damage the eventual nominee and hurt a party struggling to connect with women and minorities and desperate to win.
Those risks were amplified this week after a trio of polls showed him likely to earn a coveted invitation to the party’s debates, which ironically were restructured with the very goal of avoiding the circus-like atmosphere of 2012. Giving Trump a major platform just as the country is tuning in is not exactly the Big Tent the party’s bigwigs had in mind.
Trump currently sits in eighth place among Republicans, according to the RealClearPolitics’ average of national polls — ahead of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry. And this week, he came in second in two New Hampshire polls and in a Fox News national poll, finishing behind only former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush in all three.
“There is a real concern, particularly on the debate stage, that Trump won’t play by the rules and he’s going to throw some below-the-belt punches,” said Republican strategist Ford O’Connell.