Ever since Donald Trump began his romp through the 2016 campaign, Republican angst has ratcheted ever higher with fear that if he became the party's nominee, the real estate billionaire could reshape the GOP (if he won the White House) or cost it not only the presidency but the Senate (if he lost). Pundits and party elders have proclaimed repeatedly that “the Republican establishment” needs to coalesce around a single candidate capable of stopping the front-runner.
That's an easy prescription. But who is that GOP establishment, and how would they persuade competing candidates to drop out?
After poor showings in the first four contests — and plenty of quoted sources, anonymous and otherwise, saying he needed to get hot or go home — former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush suspended his campaign. The party appeared ready to rally around Florida Sen. Marco Rubio; he began to pick up endorsements. But billionaire financier Stanley Druckenmiller stepped in and said he would support Ohio Gov. John Kasich — the only other candidate left in the so-called establishment lane. And then New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie endorsed Trump. So much for the long-held belief that, especially in the GOP, "the party decides."
The "establishment" is, generally, an umbrella term used to describe people engaged in the political process and who support traditional Republican values like fiscal conservatism and limited government. That can include several groups: major donors who have funded GOP candidates or super PACs, Republican activists and strategists, among others.
Others disagree. “I don’t know who’s going to have clout on John Kasich except potentially Marco Rubio trying to make a backdoor [agreement] with him,” Ford O’Connell, a top political strategist on the 2008 presidential campaign of John McCain, a former Arizona senator, told IBT.