Will this go down as the week that the grand plan to deny Donald Trump the nomination fell apart?
For months, high-level Republican lawmakers, donors and strategists eager to block Trump have described, in separate conversations with me, an endgame to the presidential primary.
When it becomes clear in the early state and national polling who is consolidating support, the most influential figures with ties to the lagging candidates will stage a sort of political intervention and tell them it’s time to quit and rally to the strongest alternative to Trump.
Such a plot always struck me as a bit far-fetched, for starters because politicians aren’t known for putting party ahead of self. Yet the appetite among elite Republicans to move past Trump was and is so immense I thought there could at least be a do-the-right-thing effort.
Yet as spring turns to summer, traditionally the period when presidential hopefuls consider whether they’re gaining any traction, this vision seems more fantasy than strategy.
In fact, if Trump does emerge as the GOP standard bearer next year we will look back on this week to grasp why, just like in 2016, he was able to take advantage of a divided opposition.
There was Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ muffed launch, the fitting, sad trombone conclusion to a preannouncement period in which his stock sagged, at least among political insiders.
Nobody was more thrilled about DeSantis’ decision to begin his campaign on a balky Twitter stream than his current and prospective Republican rivals: Trump sees his fellow Floridian as weaker today than at any point since last year’s midterm, and the other non-Trumps are hardly going to step aside anytime soon, even after DeSantis’ eye-popping first fundraising haul.