The AP has a fascinating story up today about the increasingly nasty sniping between the growing gaggle of 2016 Republican presidential candidates, many of whom were recently in Denver for the Western Conservative Summit:
Worried about “Republican on Republican violence,” top party donors are taking action, with one firing off a letter calling for more civility and another seeking to block businessman Donald Trump from the debate stage altogether.
Foster Friess, a Wyoming-based investor and one of the party’s top 20 donors in the last presidential contest, issued a letter to 16 White House prospects and the Republican National Committee late last week calling for candidates to stay on the “civility reservation.”
Wyoming GOP donor Foster Freiss knows a thing or two about becoming a distraction from the GOP’s electoral aspirations, after his ill-advised comments about women “putting aspirin between their knees” as birth control helped validate “War on Women” stereotypes in 2012 that Democrats used to great effect in that year’s elections. But unfortunately for Freiss, Republicans presidential candidates don’t seem to care much for his cautionary example:
[Donald Trump] has lashed out at a growing number of Republican critics who have condemned his recent description of Mexican immigrants as criminals and rapists. Trump over the weekend posted a message from another user on his Twitter account charging that former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush “has to like the Mexican illegals because of his wife,” Columba, who was born in Mexico…
In an interview Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Cruz refused to condemn Trump’s comments, saying he’s not going to perpetrate “Republican-on-Republican violence.” Christie, who entered the presidential race last week, wasn’t having it.
“I find it ironic, right, that Ted Cruz is giving lectures on Republican-on-Republican violence — the guy who put together a group that was sponsoring primary ads against Sen. Lamar Alexander is giving the rest of us lectures on Republican-on-Republican violence?” Christie said on Fox News. “I mean, all due respect, I don’t need to be lectured by Ted Cruz.”
Local readers will note with amusement that this is the same Gov. Chris Christie who waded into Colorado’s gubernatorial primary last year on behalf of Bob Beauprez. So, uh, Christie doesn’t need “lectures on Republican-on-Republican violence,” does he?
Donald Trump’s over-the-top derogatory remarks about Mexican immigrants almost certainly destroyed whatever viability he may have had heading into the GOP presidential primary–which wasn’t much. But the reaction to Trump’s comments by fellow Republican candidates may have more of an impact on the 2016 presidential race than Trump personally by forcing them to respond. It should be noted that Trump’s offensive comments are red meat for a significant percentage of GOP primary voters, who may take other candidates’ condemnation of Trump’s sentiments as an affront to their own views.
At the same time, for most people with a basic sense of decency, condemning Trump’s remarks is not optional.
In its way, red-on-red infighting in the GOP presidential race has parallels to the crisis in the Colorado Republican Party, which has split the faithful here between backers of state party chairman Steve House and Attorney General Cynthia Coffman. In both cases, you have a faction expressing “principle” as a reason to fight on publicly, while others are begging for the sides to play nice with each other for the good for the party as a whole. Not to mention avoiding felony extortion charges if possible.
And in both cases, cooler heads have not quite prevailed.