Donald Trump just won five primaries by double digits in one fell swoop—but leading voices in #NeverTrump say it’s only a flesh wound.
Trump’s loosely organized opponents have long said they expected the mogul to do well in the April 26 primaries, in what sounds a bit like a Marco Rubio-esque effort to lower expectations. But now they face a uniquely daunting task: arguing that Trump’s five-for-five night is just a bump in the road and that rumors of his momentum are greatly exaggerated. Trump’s sweep—including in four states with primaries that only allowed registered Republicans to participate—will likely make their case increasingly difficult.
Connecticut, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Delaware could have held promise for Trump’s Republican opponents, Ted Cruz and John Kasich.
Kasich was born in McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania, and is the governor of Ohio, a state that borders Pennsylvania and shares similar economic and demographic features.
And the Keystone State has the potential to be competitive in November, as Mitt Romney only lost it in 2012 by five percentage points. Statewide, its voters favor moderate and mild-mannered Republicans, including Sen. Pat Toomey, who drew conservative ire in 2013 by pushing for stricter regulations on gun purchases.
And yet Pennsylvania went for Trump.
Indeed, his foes ceded it to him without much of a fight. Trump’s lead got too big, too fast. Same with Delaware—where, you’ll recall, conservative activists put non-witch Christine O’Donnell on the ballot in 2010—and with Maryland, which couldn’t have been easier for Cruz to visit from his D.C. digs. And same with Rhode Island, and with Connecticut. Trump’s foes just didn’t bother.
In Maryland, NBC News exit polling indicates that moderates helped Trump waltz to a win, even though the state’s popular Republican governor, Larry Hogan, has hinted he wouldn’t vote for Trump if he’s the nominee. CBS exit polling found that Trump did about as well with moderates Republicans in Connecticut as he did with conservative and very conservative Republicans there.
But Trump’s top foes say none of this dispirits them.
Quin Hillyer, a longtime conservative columnist and activist who supports the #NeverTrump movement, described the mogul’s wins as a “slight disappointment.”
He said the group’s focus on keeping Trump from racking up delegates will continue unchanged.
“This is simple arithmetic,” he said. “This is not some mythical momentum. This is nuts and bolts, and the nuts and bolts favor people who are organized. Trump is not organized.”
By “nuts and bolts,” Hillyer was referring to activists’ efforts to keep Trump from winning the 1,237 delegates necessary to secure the party’s nomination easily this summer. And Katie Packer, who chairs the anti-Trump Our Principles PAC, said a convention kerfuffle is all but guaranteed.
“There’s just no merit to the argument that Mother Jones or any of these other media types are making, that we’re gonna have to give it to him—there’s no mechanism for giving it to him if he gets close,” she said. “There’s no Republican illuminati that sits behind the stage and says, ‘Well, he got 1,150, I guess we’ll just make him the nominee.’”
Likewise, Deborah DeMoss Fonseca, a spokeswoman for the group Conservatives Against Trump, said Tuesday night’s result changes nothing. Members of that group, including some top social conservatives, still plan to try to mobilize their people against Trump.
“There’s some people who are trying to do things on social media, who have a social media network,” she said. “Everybody’s trying to do what they can from their sphere of influence.”
Trump, meanwhile, doesn’t sound too stressed.
“I consider myself the presumptive nominee, absolutely,” he told reporters after results rolled in.
For the time being, his foes will politely disagree.