Coup? Reince Priebus reportedly calling state delegations, asking how many want to dump Trump

Man, between this and the fact that an anti-Trumper was just put in charge of the Rules Committee, if you thought the relationship between Team Trump and the RNC was strained before, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

There’s no claim here, please note, that Priebus is encouraging the dump-Trumpers. If he thinks a coup against Trump would shatter the party and sink any replacement nominee, he might actually be trying to head off the effort.

Priebus has spoken with GOP party chairmen in multiple states in recent days in part to get a better sense of how large the anti-Trump faction is among their convention delegations, according to two people familiar with the conversations.

While Priebus has made clear in these conversations that he is not spearheading the latest push for a coup, his involvement sends a signal that the RNC is taking this effort to dump Trump seriously even as other movements have fizzled.

One source said Priebus’ ultimate goal is unclear. But some anti-Trump forces are hoping to garner enough support to press the convention’s rules committee to alter the rules governing the convention and open a path for a different candidate.

The RNC doesn’t deny that the calls are happening but claims CNN is misunderstanding what they’re about. Hmmmm. Another possibility that occurs to me: What if Reince is trying to nudge Trump to quit by giving him a pretext to say “the system is too rigged against me!” and then drop out? Trump quitting would spare him the indignity of being deposed at the convention and might make some Republican voters more amenable to eventually supporting a replacement nominee. If the party dumps Trump then they’re overruling the will of the voters. But if Trump bails on the party, well, the RNC has no choice but to find someone else, right? For what it’s worth, Phil Kerpen notes that Trump’s odds at the nomination are now down below 92 percent in at least one betting market, a lot of uncertainty for a guy who’s been the presumptive nominee since early May.

Meanwhile, Trump tells the NYT regarding his poor polling lately that he hasn’t even gotten started yet. You know the punchline: That’s what Republicans are afraid of.

“I’m four down in one poll, three and a half in another that just came out, and I haven’t started yet,” Mr. Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, said in a phone interview on Thursday night, a thought he volunteered as he dismissed concerns from Senate Republicans that he may be a drag on their candidacies in the fall.

“And I have tremendous Republican support,” Mr. Trump said. “Unfortunately they never talk about that, they talk about the few rebels.”…

“I think I’m going to help,” Mr. Trump said of the Senate candidates. And he suggested that senators who were lagging in polls themselves had troubles long before he became the nominee.

Senate Republicans are so confident that he’ll “help” down-ballot that some of them have turned to none other than George W. Bush to campaign for them instead. With rare exceptions, like his rally for Jeb in South Carolina earlier this year, Dubya’s been absent from the trail since he left office because, eight years later, he’s still a liability for the GOP. Not as much as he used to be — his favorable ratings have recovered to respectable levels (enough so that he’s more popular than Trump now) — but Democrats can and do still use him to hang Iraq, Katrina, and the financial crisis around the necks of Republicans. Imagine how nervous someone like Kelly Ayotte must be about getting branded with Trump that she’d volunteer to get branded with Dubya’s record instead. (Bush is also a strong contrast with Trump on immigration and whether it’s fair to blame Islam for the actions of jihadis.) It’s like deliberately catching chicken pox in hopes that it’ll inoculate you against smallpox. And Dubya is a sort of inoculation against Trump, I think. Given the animosity between Trump and the Bush family, with Trump having destroyed “low-energy” Jeb and both former Presidents Bush having refused to endorse Trump, inviting Dubya out on the trail is one of the strongest signals you can send that you’re emphatically not a “Trump Republican.” The only potential campaign ally who might send that message more strongly is Romney, but Romney’s less well liked than Bush is. Imagine that. If you’re looking for a popular Republican to campaign with these days, your best play might be … George W. Bush.

As for Trump just getting started, er, why is he just getting started? He wrapped up the nomination on May 4th, notes Chris Cillizza. He’s had six weeks to go bombs away on Clinton while she was preoccupied with fending off Bernie Sanders. What’s he been doing with his time?

The State Department’s inspector general released a report sharply critical of Hillary Clinton’s decision to exclusively rely on a private email server for her electronic communication while serving as secretary of state. That is a terrible story for Clinton — and one that is a gift to Republicans working to portray her as an untrustworthy and unreliable person to lead the country.

The IG report came out on May 25. Two days later, Trump went on a 11-minute rant about Curiel to a crowd in San Diego. Suddenly, the IG report was out of the news, replaced by questions about whether or not Trump was a racist. That is, definitionally, campaign malpractice.

That’s the most egregious example of Trump’s mistakes over the last six weeks. But, time and again, Trump has stolen the spotlight — and not in a good way — rather than turning it on Clinton. Rather than talk about her email problems, her inability to close out the challenge from Bernie Sanders, the misgiving some within her party have about nominating her or almost any other Clinton-focused headline, Trump has instead talked incessantly about himself.

Yeah, this guy doesn’t seem to realize that it’s not just his poll downturn that has Republicans despairing, it’s why the polls turned downward. Polls will go up and down, but this entire six-week period, from the IG report to the fact that Democrats are momentarily divided to the terror attack in Orlando that might have steered voters towards a strongman like Trump, should have been a goldmine for him. At a minimum, we should have seen further consolidation of Republicans behind Trump and probably some tightening in the national polls, proving that the experts were wrong and that he was going to be competitive with Hillary. Instead, there’s reason to think Trump has lost support in various demographics: Ramesh Ponnuru picked through some recent NYT/CBS polls last night and found that his support has shrunk among Republicans, white women, and white college graduates. How often does a presumptive nominee become less popular with his own party after clinching? This also could have and should have been a period used by Trump to staff up aggressively for the battle with Hillary. Instead, the AP reports today that he has 30 paid staff — three-oh — on the ground nationally, a little more than one for every two states. Hillary has something like 700. Republican leaders can tolerate bad stretches from Trump. What makes them queasy is watching a bad stretch emerge out of what should have been a good one.

For Trump, it’s reached the point where not only did he acknowledge that he’s behind in his interview with the Times above, he’s now trumpeting polls that show him losing by only a little bit:

https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/743852552257626112

Here’s the latest indignity, a Rubioesque Super PAC attacking Trump for his — well, you’ll see. In lieu of an exit question, I’ll extend this olive branch to Trumpers: If Trump is willing to confirm that this really is his plan for Chris Christie, I’ll vote for the guy. That sort of inspiration deserves a little support.