'Retrumplican Party': Accurate or unfair to equate Trump and GOP?

A new Democratic attack ad aims to link Donald Trump's views on immigration to other GOP candidates.

Seth Wenig/AP
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump talks to reporters as he arrives at a fundraising event at a golf course in the Bronx borough of New York on Monday.

The Democratic National Committee has released a new attack ad titled “Retrumplican Party." It’s a (somewhat) clever 90-second attempt to tie the entire GOP to the careening semitrailer that is the Donald Trump presidential campaign.

Is that fair? Well, it’s true that Mr. Trump’s belligerence appeals to a portion of the Republican electorate. Otherwise he would not have popped up to 13 percent in the HuffPost Pollster rolling average of major polls.

And some pundits argue that Trump’s connection to the GOP runs deeper than polls indicate and that he’s articulating the basic beliefs of the party grass roots, such as the need for a tougher approach to illegal immigrants. Republican leaders may be trying to get Trump to tone down his message, but what they’re really worried about is that he’s a monster they’ve created, writes Washington Post commentator Dana Milbank.

“The Republican Party can’t dump Trump because Trump is the Republican Party,” Mr. Milbank writes.

But come on – 13 percent in the polls in a split field is far from a broad-based endorsement. That means 87 percent of GOP voters want someone else. And 52 percent of Republicans say they have an unfavorable view of The Donald. It’s as arguable that the GOP is the Party of Ben Carson as much as the Party of Trump.

The “Retrumplican Party” video does point out some connections between Trump’s harsh rhetoric on immigration and the other candidates. It shows a clip of former Gov. Rick Perry of Texas talking about rapes committed by Hispanic immigrants, for instance. Most of its time, though, is spent showing other GOP candidates echoing Trump’s vow to repeal President Obama’s order to stop prosecution of certain categories of illegal immigrants, including those brought to America as children and those who have kids who are US citizens or legal residents. 

Pretty much all the GOP candidates made the same vow long before Trump came on the scene. Hispanics oppose this position, but the thing that’s stirred up vehemence is Trump’s dismissive tone and his connection of Mexicans with criminality.

All the major GOP contenders with the exception of Ted Cruz have explicitly said they don’t support that part of Trump’s message.

The real issue that interests us in the “Retrumplican” controversy, however, is whom the DNC’s video is aimed at.

Swing voters? There really aren’t that many of those, as we’ve written in the past. Most “independent” voters are just partisans who like to think of themselves as free agents.

Republicans? No, it’s unlikely the DNC thinks it’s going to lure disaffected members of the GOP across the aisle.

We’d say the DNC ad, like many such ads in this portion of the election cycle, is aimed at the party’s own supporters. It’s supposed to raise scorn for the other side and rally the troops.

In a time of rising partisanship, voters are motivated more than ever by a loathing for the other side, writes University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato in Politico.

“Increasingly, Americans are voting against the opposing party rather than for their own,” Mr. Sabato writes.

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