Republican candidates need to stop pulling their punches with Clinton

Of course, there is one candidate who has refused to back down. His name is Donald Trump.

It’s no coincidence that, with the exception of Ted Cruz, every candidate who has treated Bill Clinton with kid gloves is perceived as belonging to the “establishment.” Having watched both John McCain and Mitt Romney take the high road but lose their elections, can Republican voters really be blamed for wanting a representative who doesn’t steadfastly hogtie himself and watch as Hillary Clinton bulldozes over him on her way into the Oval Office? Every time a Republican pulls a punch instead of hitting hard, it increases the likelihood of a Trump victory.

Somewhere deep down, Trump understands this. During a recent appearance on Meet The Press, Chuck Todd warned Trump that his own marriages and divorces may soon become “fair game.” Trump laughed off the accusation. “It’s fine,” he said. “I wasn’t the president of the United States.” In the past month or so, Trump has turned such deflections into an art form. Each and every time that the Clinton campaign cries “sexist,” he has responded by holding up a mirror. There will be some voters who dislike this approach. Others, though, will take the flawed messenger who leaves it all on the field over the pedigree candidate who tells them, “I’m not going there.” Will there be enough of those kind of voters? Time will tell.

Since 2008, Hillary and her advisers have spent seven years watching Barack Obama drive Republicans and their voters into an emotional frenzy. Driven by the need to motivate its base, today’s Democrat party has perfected its “War on Women” narrative, and will hope to enshrine it even deeper into the conversation in the coming year. To this end, its leading politicians have weaponized rape and sexual assault, and attempted — sometimes successfully — to make “women’s health” into a partisan issue. Against these cynical ruses, Donald Trump has gone ruthlessly on the march, even going so far as to link Bill Clinton to Bill Cosby in an Instagram video that invited smiles from even Trump’s harshest critics on the right. Should they wish to win the White House, Republicans not named “Trump” will need to punch back just as hard and just as dirty as he has, and as Clinton inevitably will. So far, there is no sign that they are willing to do so.