October 17, 2021


images-44Republican leaders who have watched Donald Trump’s summer surge with alarm now believe that his presidential candidacy has been contained and may begin to collapse because of his repeated attacks on a Fox News Channel star and his refusal to pledge his loyalty to the eventual GOP nominee.

Fearful that the billionaire’s inflammatory rhetoric has inflicted serious damage to the GOP brand, party leaders hope to pivot away from the Trump sideshow and toward a more serious discussion among a deep field of governors, senators and other candidates.

They acknowledge that Trump’s unique megaphone and the passion of his supporters make any calculation about his candidacy risky. After all, he has been presumed dead before: Three weeks ago, he prompted establishment outrage by belittling the Vietnam war service of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), only to prove, by climbing higher in the polls, that the laws of political gravity did not apply to him.

Still, Trump’s erratic performance during and after the first Republican presidential debate last week sparked a backlash throughout the party Saturday and a reassessment of his front-running bid. The final straw for many was Trump’s comment on CNN late Friday that Fox moderator Megyn Kelly had “blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.”

Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.), a fellow candidate, said Trump was jeopardizing the GOP’s chances of winning back the White House and urged party leaders to stop “tiptoeing” around him.