Exit Trump?

There have been a lot of stories in recent days, typically second-hand from supposed “insiders,” that Trump ran for president mostly as a way of elevating his “brand,” hoping for a second-place finish perhaps to increase his political clout, but never thinking he actually might win this thing. John Fund quotes a former staffer to this effect:

Stephanie Cegielski . . . this week wrote an impassioned article describing how Trump’s own staff intended for him only to place second in the primaries and have a major impact on the GOP race: “I don’t think even Trump thought he would get this far. And I don’t even know that he wanted to, which is perhaps the scariest prospect of all. He certainly was never prepared or equipped to go all the way to the White House, but his ego has now taken over the driver’s seat, and nothing else matters.”

Cegielski’s views are confirmed by Cheri Jacobus, a GOP strategist who had meetings with Trump’s campaign about becoming its communications director. “I believe Trump senses he is in over his head and doesn’t really want the nomination,” she told me. “He wanted to help his brand and have fun, but not to be savaged by the Clintons if he’s the candidate. He wouldn’t mind falling short of a delegate majority, losing the nomination, and then playing angry celebrity victim in the coming years.”

Perhaps this is accurate, but there is plenty of contrary evidence that Trump was serious about this run for quite a long time and is in it to win it. And if Trump was suddenly trying to throw the race with a string of blunders, how could you tell?

But I wonder whether, if Trump is crushed in Wisconsin next Tuesday, he might drop out of the race, posturing like Ross Perot did in the summer of 1992 when he (temporarily) withdrew from the race while almost endorsing Bill Clinton with the remark that the Democratic Party seemed at last to have reformed itself. Trump could claim, with some justification, that his candidacy has awakened the Republican Party, and he could pose as some kind of elder statesman, not wanting to fracture the party in Cleveland, etc.

I doubt it. But if Trump did drop out suddenly, it would probably make things worse for Republicans heading into the Cleveland convention. I wonder if more than one candidate, like Rubio, might jump back in. (Rubio right now has more pledged delegates than Kasich.) What would become of Trump’s delegates? I happen to know that out here in California, the party leadership is trying to find delegates for the June primary who haven’t made public criticisms of Trump but who could be “Trump” delegates in name only, that is, willing to abandon Trump and play ball with power brokers in Cleveland if the contest goes beyond a first ballot.

Maybe Trump is a “blessing in disguise” for the disruptions he’s brought to the GOP. This thought reminds me of Churchill’s reply to his wife Clementine when she said perhaps his surprise upset election defeat was a blessing in disguise. “If it’s a blessing,” he said, “it is certainly very well disguised.” Or maybe you like this version of the idea: