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Trump Leads Deeply Divided GOP

  • Wayne Lee

US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump greets supporters at his campaign rally at Werner Enterprises Hangar in Omaha, Nebraska, May 6, 2016.

US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump greets supporters at his campaign rally at Werner Enterprises Hangar in Omaha, Nebraska, May 6, 2016.

Donald Trump has launched a high-octane general election campaign after capturing enough electoral votes to be the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.

Trump is in attack mode this week as he makes his rounds with the media and leverages social media platforms. Instead of attempting to heal a deeply divided Republican Party, Trump is unloading on his fellow Republican politicians, conservative activists and, not surprisingly, Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.

“I will win the election against crooked Hillary despite the people in the Republican Party that are currently and selfishly opposed to me!,” Trump Tweeted Monday morning.

With the general election six months away, the Republican Party remains divided among Trump supporters and GOP traditionalists.

“It does seem like there is approximate equal division,” University of Maryland political analyst James Gimpel told VOA.

Gimpel predicts “at least a third” of the Republican Party will remain opposed to Trump in the months ahead. He believes Trump opponents would either try to run their own candidate or simply not cast votes for a presidential candidate in the general election.

A stumbling block to Republican Party unity is a decision by House Speaker Paul Ryan and other Republican officeholders not to support Trump.

“That is emblematic of where a lot of party officeholders are. They don’t know exactly what Donald Trump stands for,” Gimpel said.

And Trump’s tendency to flip-flop on issues such as taxes has not helped unify the party, either, said Gimpel. “It leaves a lot of officeholders in a quandary as to what a Trump administration might mean.”

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is not the only candidate who must contend with Trump’s frontrunner status. A larger-than-usual number of other Republican officeholders, like Senator John McCain of Arizona, will have to mount vigorous campaigns to overcome Trump's controversial remarks about immigration and other issues.

Gimpel said it is “very likely Republicans could be defending an usually large number of hotly-contested seats, and added it would be best for GOP candidates to prepare “for the worst.”

A Trump presidential victory could reshape the GOP, with social conservatives likely losing much of their political clout, said Gimpel.

“Any Trump-led party is certainly going to be more concerned about economic issues and less concerned about social issues,” he said.

Despite Trump’s unconventional campaign methods and a lack of detailed policy proposals, the real estate mogul-turned politician continues to appeal to millions of Americans.

“The Republican rank-and-file are clearly unhappy with their office holders in Washington,” said Gimpel. “They feel like the Washington elites have grown increasingly out of step with them.”

The prevailing narrative that resonates as Gimpel speaks with voters and conducts research is that Trump is an "imperfect candidate, but he's better than all the others."