Early last week, if you squinted hard enough it was possible to see the Republican Party beginning to unite behind presidential nominee Donald Trump. It was not overwhelming support. Nor was it the full-throated endorsement a partisan might want for the party’s nominee. It was more tepid, trending toward lukewarm.
Still, it was possible to read in the narrowing polling gap between Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton the possibility that Republicans who had spent months declaring themselves #NeverTrump were now coming home to the GOP. Prominent elected officials like Sen. Marco Rubio, who just a few months nearly broke down in tears over Trump’s success, and radio talk-show host Mark Levin, among others, decided the mogul was the lesser of two evils after all and gave him their grudging endorsements.
For crying out loud, even #Ted Cruz endorsed Trump, after the latter had derided Cruz’s wife’s attractiveness and suggested the Texas senator’s father might have been an associate of Lee Harvey Oswald. The endorsement was likely a craven career move by Cruz more than it was a sign of newfound warmth towards his party’s nominee. But considering his antics on the stage of the Republican National Convention two months ago, this might as well have been the Camp David accords.
Then came Monday night, and a Trump performance that ranked as likely the worst ever turned in by a major party nominee in a presidential debate. All of a sudden, you could not find anyone besides Rush Limbaugh and congressional back benchers like Marsha Blackburn to defend the GOP’s standard bearer.