Politics

Trump Opponents Know Their Time is Running Out

#NeverTrump Movement Tries to Make up for Late Start in Keeping Him from GOP Nomination

Trump opponents in the Republican Party know time is running out if they want to keep him from getting the presidential nomination. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

Whether it’s still possible to halt presidential front-runner Donald Trump from dragging the clearly shellshocked Republican Party towards a final showdown at its convention in Cleveland is irrelevant to the handful of activists determined to tear down the media mogul.  

The like-minded yet independently operating agitators just know that something has to be done — and that time is running out.  

“If Trump is our nominee, it’s because nothing was done to stop him,” Doug Heye, the self-proclaimed instigator of the #NeverTrump movement, warned of the consequences of inaction.

All Aboard

Heye, a former House Republican leadership aide, tried sounding the alarm last summer, advising others not to take Trump lightly.  

“As much attention as Mr. Trump has received, serious scrutiny has been scant. And his undoing could well be in the details,” Heye cautioned in the Wall Street Journal. He returned to his soapbox (borrowed this time from Independent Journal ) in December to explain why he could not, in good conscience, ever cast a ballot for the former reality TV star.

GOP strategist and Make America Awesome super PAC co-creator Liz Mair said she soured on Trump the moment he praised Scotland’s government-sponsored health care service in the first Republican presidential debate.  

The animus intensified throughout the fall, prompting Mair to take her first crack at poking holes in Trump’s candidacy via a short-lived LLC. By December, her mission had evolved into Make America Awesome, an anti-Trump task force spearheaded by Mair, GOP media consultant Rick Wilson, an opposition researcher and a fundraiser — all of whom have taken on the project pro bono.

“I don’t want to get paid,” Mair said. “The point is just stopping the guy who is basically Hillary Clinton.”  

The Never Trump PAC joined the fray earlier this month, imploring sympathizers to commit to doing whatever it takes to sidetrack Trump’s rise to power. (Nearly 15,000 signatories and counting.)  

The nascent group, Finn said, is getting started with “a couple hundred thousand dollars.” But she maintains that it already boasts followers in all 50 states, most of whom she says are young women. And she said the organizers, whom she declined to identify by name (“There are several grassroots leaders from different states,” she said of the core structure), relish the opportunity to play spoiler.  

“This is the moment for ‘Never Trump’ voices to coalesce and organize,” Finn asserted.

What Happened?

That mentality took a while to come together. And even now, Heye says, it’s rather stunning that the media, pundits and party leaders let things progress this far.  

“I think we kind of went through three stages: ‘Don’t attack Trump, he’s not serious.’ That was the summer. Then in the fall it was, ‘Don’t attack Trump, it probably won’t work.’ And in January to mid-February we were at, ‘Don’t attack Trump, it’s too late,’” he said of the doubts Trump opponents wrestled with in recent months.  

The lack of coherent leadership was bad enough. Heye said marching out 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney to try and shake things up may have actually made things worse.  

“I thought Romney’s use of the word ‘sucker’ was unfortunate. Because that’s the voter,” Heye said of Romney's March 3 address in which the former presidential hopeful warned Republicans about trusting Trump.  

He was also critical of Romney for not addressing that he had readily accepted Trump’s endorsement in the previous cycle. “People were embarrassed by that event,” Heye recalled.  

It was still worth a shot, he calculated.  

“It also jump-started a conversation, which was necessary,” Heye said of Romney’s widely publicized rebuke. “It would have been great to have before Labor Day.”  

And he insists that were plenty of opportunities to call out Trump ahead of time.  

Critics, he charged, simply failed to capitalize.  

“We should’ve been talking about Donald Trump’s ties and shirts being made in foreign countries the day he first talked about jobs being in Mexico and China. But we waited eight months,” Heye said. “And that, to me, is the ultimate failure.”  

Mair is all about hitting Trump where it really hurts — his ego.