How can the GOP stop Donald Trump?

The binary choice offered up on the Democratic side of the primaries could provide a clue for the Republican establishment.

Matt Rourke/AP
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, left, accompanied by South Carolina State rep. Bill Herbkersman (R), speaks during a campaign stop in Bluffton, S.C. Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016.

What’s the best way to stop Donald Trump?

The Democratic primary might give us a clue.

Make it a binary choice.

That’s my theory. But it could be wrong.

Mr. Trump is polling roughly among Republicans what Senator Bernie Sanders (I) of Vermont is polling among Democrats. In some places, it is higher and in some places it is lower, but among the national polls, their numbers are mostly comparable.

Most pundits believe that Hillary Clinton will win on the Democratic side because Senator Sanders has a ceiling of about forty percent.

Many pundits increasingly worry that Trump will win the GOP nomination despite the fact that his ceiling is roughly the same as Sanders, even a bit lower.

A three person race won’t work to beat Trump, at least when it comes to voting percentages. The best hope for the GOP is either that Ted Cruz drops out or that there is a brokered convention.

The problem with this theory is that it is unclear how much of the Sanders vote is a reaction to the Hillary Clinton and how much of it is because of the appeal of the Vermont Senator.

Does Bernie do well because he is a socialist or because he is not Hillary?

In a binary world, somebody like Sanders gets more of a chance to spot out, to get more traction for his message and as a result, it gets more attention by the voters and seems more credible.

Would a more crowded field (Joe Biden, John Kerry, Al Gore) diminish the Sanders vote, would it diminish the Hillary vote or would it diminish the vote of them both?

If there were more people on the debate stage basically rolling their eyes at the Vermont Socialist, would that take the steam out of his engine. That’s kind of what happened to Rand Paul, who tried to take the GOP in a bold new libertarian direction.

If the GOP battle came down to Jeb Bush and Rand Paul, who do you think would win that fight? I bet you Bush would, and roughly by the same percentages as the Clinton Sanders contest.

Hillary got the same percentage in New Hampshire that she received in 2008. She won then but lost in 2016.

In a more crowded field, would Bernie be seen more as a crank or would his clear socialist message gather the same traction that Trump is receiving in the GOP field?

It’s clear that the protest vote is sizable in both parties.

What is unclear is that is whether that protest vote is big enough to prevail on both sides of the aisle. Right now, it looks like Bernie won’t get enough to cross the finish line, while it looks more than a bit possible that Trump could win.

John Feehery publishes his Feehery Theory blog at

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