The Republican Party’s establishment is slowly coming to terms with a tough reality: Donald Trump will be the nominee, and resistance is futile.
Newt Gingrich is the latest party elder to try and normalize the ever-increasing possibility of a Trump presidency, visiting with top GOP lawmakers on Capitol Hill earlier this week to pave the way for a future working relationship.
“The time is coming when you’ve got to put the party back together,” Gingrich told The Daily Beast.
Asked whether he was meeting with GOP leaders about Trump, Gingrich indicated it was more of a casual conversation—but confirmed that he has spoken with party leadership about starting the healing process—no matter which of the four candidates end up winning the nomination.
Behind the scenes, however, Gingrich’s outreach is more obvious. None of the other remaining Republican nominees would require the kind of healing that a Trump presidency would demand.
“Newt has been on the Hill sharing his views on how Congress could work with a Trump administration,” a Republican leadership aide told The Daily Beast. “Gingrich is trying to legitimize Trump while Mitt Romney and others are out there saying he’s terrible. Gingrich is saying that Trump’s positions are valid—he’s trying to add legitimacy to Trump while everyone else is doing the opposite.”
Gingrich visited Capitol Hill on Wednesday to sit down with Speaker Ryan and hold a Facebook Q&A. Just the day before, Gingrich waxed poetic about Trump’s “seriousness” and “shift toward inclusiveness” following the Super Tuesday primaries.
During one meeting, a leadership aide said, Gingrich said he had been in quiet talks with the Trump campaign.
But Gingrich has stopped “short of endorsing Trump publicly because he knows it’s not the right way to win over conservatives who are alarmed by Trump’s policy positions and rhetoric,” said the aide.
Publicly Gingrich has walked a fine line: praising Trump without quite endorsing him.
“He is a man totally unique. He lives life at a 100 percent pace. I have never seen anything like it,” Gingrich cooed on Fox News Thursday evening. “If he becomes president, there is going to be a wall.”
The former House speaker added, “I don’t mind people saying, ‘I don’t want Trump.’ I mind people saying, ‘I’ll never vote for him.’ I think faced with Hillary [Clinton] as an alternative, that’s a very dangerous position.”
Gingrich is hardly the only Republican leader, in recent weeks, to make peace with the idea of Donald Trump as the party’s nominee.
“There is so much at stake… however you disagree with Cruz or Rubio or Trump, the moderate Republican Party is going to coalesce against Hillary. She’s the uniter not a divider, she’s going to unite the Republican Party,” Grover Norquist, the anti-tax crusader, told The Daily Beast. “There were a number of significant Republicans who came out against Goldwater, there were people that talked about doing this against Reagan, but I don’t know that anybody significant did it after the primary.”