GOP donors wanted Bush, Rubio, and Walker to boycott debates unless Trump was disqualified

So, so dumb, but that’s our donor class for you.

Many national Republican officials are increasingly resigned to Mr. Trump’s looming presence. At a meeting of the Republican Governors Association this week in Aspen, Colo., donors and operatives mused about how to prevent him from hijacking the debate.

One idea that came up was to urge three leading candidates — Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor; Mr. Walker; and Senator Marco Rubio of Florida — to band together and state that they would not participate in any debate in which Mr. Trump was present, using his refusal to rule out a third-party bid as a pretext for taking such a hard line. The thinking, according to a Republican involved in the conversations, was that the lesser-funded prospects who have been eclipsed by Mr. Trump would follow suit, and the TV networks airing the debates would be forced to bar Mr. Trump in order to have a full complement of candidates.

But none of the campaigns have shown any appetite for such solidarity, for reasons ranging from their strategic interests and not wanting to make Mr. Trump a martyr, to fear of making an enemy of Fox News, the preferred cable network of conservatives and the host of the first debate.

You already know the main reason this is stupid. Let me add another: Bush, Walker, and Rubio can each argue, somewhat credibly, that having Trump in the race is good for them. For Jeb, he’s a big-name foil, a guy whom Bush can use to underscore his own comparative moderation and electability. There may be nothing worse to many “somewhat conservative” voters than nominating a Bush … unless the alternative is nominating Donald Trump. For Walker, what could be sweeter than having Trump around throwing roundhouses at Bush for being a RINO and a loser? He’s making the same bet that Ted Cruz is, that Trumpmania will cool once Republican voters start to get serious about picking a candidate. And Walker’s well positioned to pick up Trump voters (and “anyone but Jeb” voters) thanks to his newfound hawkishness about the border. As long as Trump doesn’t hang around the race too long, denying Walker the anti-Bush votes he needs in the early states, he’s pure upside. As for Rubio, he’s pitching himself to righties as the party’s best chance to cut into Hillary’s domination of the Latino vote. The more Trump grumbles about Mexican rapists, the more desperate some undecideds will become to heal that rift with Hispanics before the general election. Rubio, thanks to his Gang of Eight pedigree and his Cuban heritage, may be the closest thing the GOP has to a “magic bullet.” And the more damage Trumpzilla does over the next six to nine months, the more compelling that case for Rubio becomes. So why would any of these guys want to drive Trump off the stage? Especially when he’s already hinting about going third-party if he feels insulted?

Actually, there’s a third reason why the boycott idea is dumb: Why would anyone assume that the also-rans in the race would follow the lead of Bush, Walker, and Rubio by boycotting? They’d love to have those guys off the stage. Instead of being relegated to the JV debate at 5 p.m. on August 6th, they’d end up as part of the main show with a gigantic audience thanks to Trump. They could stand there and say, not unpersuasively, that any man who’s afraid to debate Donald Trump has no business negotiating for the United States against Vladimir Putin. If I were an advisor for Chris Christie or Bobby Jindal, I’d be salivating at the thought that Team Jeb might conceivably be so stupid as to cede them the spotlight that way. The only candidate who’s polling badly for whom this might present a dilemma is Rick Perry. Given what he said yesterday, he’d have to at least entertain the idea that Trump’s presence in a debate delegitimizes it to the point where it’s not worth participating in it. But even Perry, I think, would seize the opportunity and show up. After all, he’s the guy who’s trying to make his mark by confronting “Trumpism” directly. Why would he pass on a chance to impress Republican voters by confronting Trump himself face to face?

Via the Daily Caller, here’s the Glenn Beck Show yesterday declaring itself a Trump-free zone. I’ll leave you with two quotations to chew on. The first comes from RCP: “[Rick Perry] said he has confidence that the Fox News debate’s moderators—Chris Wallace, Megyn Kelly and Bret Baier—will be able to rein in the loquacious business magnate and keep him from stealing the show.” And the second comes from … Bret Baier: “I’d be lying to you if I didn’t say that I have woken up in cold sweats wondering how I’m going to deal with a Donald Trump who’s not listening,”