Earlier this week, pressed in an interview with the editorial board of the Miami Herald, Marco Rubio insisted that he still supported the Republican presidential nominee—and stuck by his description of Trump as a “con man.” His own role in the Senate upon reelection will be to “confront bad ideas from the White House,” no matter who wins the presidency, Rubio said. Think it was hard for Rubio to thread that needle? Let’s see how he does in a month.
The shakeup at the Trump campaign has largely been discussed in terms of its impact on the GOP nominee’s dwindling chances of victory. But what must also be considered is what the impact of the change will be on downticket Republican candidates will be. Trump is no fool and can surely see that an Electoral College victory is rapidly becoming unreachable. If he’s going to lose, he’d rather do so as himself. So even if the pollster Kellyanne Conway, who has been promoted to campaign manager, tries to steer him away from the rocks, campaign CEO and Breitbart.com propietor Steve Bannon will surely urge him on to help transform the GOP into the living embodiment of that website’s ethos of chaos.
Politicians like Rubio, Pat Toomey, Kelly Ayotte and House Speaker Paul Ryan gave their grudging endorsements to Trump based on the assumption that his hunger to win the presidency would cause him to be less of an embarrassment in the general election campaign. That was clearly a miscalculation. If Trump spends the next 82 days behaving as he has since the Republican convention, only more so, his reluctant allies will need to go a lot further to create distance from the presidential nominee than even Rubio did in that uncomfortable Miami Herald interview.
More fiascos like the spat with the Khan family or an accusation that Obama founded ISIS won’t just hurt Trump in the polls and give the TV talking heads something to chew over. If the spillover to downticket races becomes unquestionable, Trump’s behavior will finally create the schism within the Republican Party that has been in the cards since he clinched the nomination.