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Republicans desperately seek ways to stop Donald Trump

Party leaders have 15 days before the next primary in Florida to find a way to prevent his nomination

Marco Rubio
Marco Rubio’s future hangs on the outcome of the Florida primary on March 15. AP

The Republican Party is exhausting every possibility in its attempt to prevent Donald Trump from becoming the nominee for the November presidential elections. After winning the majority of the primaries on Super Tuesday, the populist nationalist real-estate mogul, who has a very different message from the classic conservative American rhetoric, is moving closer to earning the Republican nomination. But there is staunch resistance among party leaders and supporters and his opponents desperately want to take the fight to the July convention, where the official candidate will be decided.

Usually, the party closes ranks around the favorite once it becomes clear that they have no strong rivals left. Under normal circumstances, this would be the moment when Republicans accept Trump as the nominee – his rivals would begin to drop out of the race and the donors and strategists would start focusing on launching the campaign against the Democratic candidate.

Trump’s inappropriate remarks about migrants, Muslims and women would have sunk the career of any other politician

But this time round, nothing has gone according to plan. The phenomenon created by this New York multimillionaire known for his skyscrapers, reality TV shows, outrageous ego, conspiracy theories and infeasible hairdo has broken the mold.

When he announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination in June, no one took him seriously, especially not the Republican Party. Now its leaders have discovered with dread that this foul-mouthed, disrespectful, sexist, xenophobic man who mixes radical right-wing speech against undocumented immigrants with left-wing positions on the economy is just a step away from the nomination.

The party, the so-called establishment, does not know how to react. For months, it trusted – as did most observers – that Trump would eventually run out of steam. His inappropriate remarks, insults and jokes about immigrants, Muslims, women, the disabled, and prisoners of war would have destroyed the career of any other politician.

But a series of victories since the primaries began a month ago sounded the alarm and last week his rivals went on the offensive. They questioned his integrity and business successes for the first time and rebuked him for his ambivalence toward racist groups such as the Ku Klux Klan.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio, the son of Cuban immigrants, led the charge. Rubio is faithful to the Republican platform on foreign policy and the economy. He is the perfect candidate if the party wanted to attract a more diverse – less white, more Latino – group of voters. But the Florida senator, the establishment’s last hope, has been on a losing streak. And some Republicans dislike Texas Senator Ted Cruz, the other alternative, almost as much as they do Trump because of his ideological intransigence and personality.

Trump’s victories on Super Tuesday marked him out as the favorite in the Republican race. Yet the next few days could see the party redouble its efforts to sideline him with negative TV ads. Until now, wealthy conservatives have kept out of the fight even as they watched with horror as Trump marched forward.

The Florida primary on March 15 may be the last chance for Rubio. A failure there would weaken him and leave the party with few options.

Republicans may also try to delay Trump’s nomination. Though he has won 10 of the 15 primaries held, he has only received 46% of the delegates and 34% of votes, meaning two-thirds of Republicans favor other candidates. Perhaps if the party rallied behind one candidate, then they could challenge Trump for the nomination. But this strategy would require Rubio or Cruz to leave the race and neither is ready to do so.

Wealthy conservatives have so far kept out of the fight even as they watched with horror as Trump marched forward

Few believe it will be possible to stop Trump during the primaries but some think they may be able to prevent him from gathering a majority of delegates before July. Then, an anti-Trump front could defeat him at the convention.

The other options discussed among Republicans and pundits is to create a new party if Trump does win the Republican nomination, or to simply vote for the Democratic favorite, Hillary Clinton.

In his victory speech on Tuesday night, Trump spoke about his favorite topic, immigration. He focused on how international commerce has hurt the middle classes, listing a number of companies that had to close down their factories in the United States and move them to developing countries. Trump presented himself as a businessman who will create jobs like never before.

It was an almost Democratic message aimed at the working classes, who have felt the brunt of recent recessions and growing inequality, and was delivered with the November elections in mind, where – if he finally does win the Republican nomination – he will likely face Hillary Clinton.

English version by Dyane Jean François.

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