Trump is huge, and he isn't going away

Story highlights

  • Tim Stanley: Trump won Super Tuesday, but GOP still tearing itself apart as it tries to stop him; its best hope, Rubio, didn't come close
  • Congressional Republicans may break with Trump if he wins; they're missing point that voters have made plain, he says
  • GOP must acknowledge issues Trump has raised and build some kind of constructive partnership with his voters.

Timothy Stanley, a conservative, is a historian and columnist for Britain's Daily Telegraph. He is the author of "Citizen Hollywood: How the Collaboration Between L.A. and D.C. Revolutionized American Politics." The opinions expressed in this commentary are his.

(CNN)Donald Trump won Super Tuesday. All other analysis feels like a distraction at this stage.

He is ahead. He is the dominant candidate
    Timothy Stanley
    Yet, despite this, the GOP continues to throw everything it's got at the front-runner. And continues to tear itself apart. It's become a kind of madness.
    The Virginia primary result was a good illustration of the mood of the Republican Party. Here was a chance for Marco Rubio really to break through. He was doing well among late deciders. But as the evening wore on and the votes came in, it became obvious he wasn't going to do it.
    Rubio won the college educated, the overspill from Washington and the wealthy. But Trump dominated among rural dwellers and in the suburbs. Some analysis says that John Kasich stole enough votes to deny Rubio the state, but why assume that all of Kasich's voters would've backed him?
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    By the time Virginia was called, one could feel the momentum drain away from Rubio -- even as he would go on to win one state: Minnesota. Will the energy ever come back? It's hard to see how or why.
    He's enjoyed every advantage: a week of great headlines, the support of the establishment, a consensus that he's the best placed to beat Hillary Clinton. Despite this, he failed to make his mark on Super Tuesday and is trailing Trump in his home state of Florida.
    And yet the only alternatives left in the race are John Kasich, with little appeal outside the North, and Ted Cruz, whom moderates broadly despise. The most rational thing to do right now might be for Kasich and Rubio to drop out and back Cruz -- the anti-Trump person who has won the most. And yet the most rational thing doesn't even seem to be on the table.
    We know that the GOP is looking for answers. Insiders have tried to persuade others to drop out -- an approach that has been stymied by ego. How else to explain the absurd statement by Kasich's chief strategist that: "Rubio's presence in the race is keeping Republicans from consolidating around Governor Kasich"?
    Other party bosses have started to raise money for an anti-Trump PAC; some are preparing for a brokered convention. Given that so many delegates are distributed proportionately, this is not a bad Plan B.
    Although it's hard to imagine that Rubio would be the main beneficiary, given that he did so badly in the primaries. Why crown a loser?
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    Most depressing, however, are the plans by congressional Republicans simply to break with Trump in the event of a general election. They've done the math. They've seen the polls that put Trump way behind Hillary Clinton and they know he could cost them dearly. Better, they think, to cauterize the nomination -- let Trump have the presidential ticket, cut him off and stop the poison contaminating them.
    But the bigger, existential problem they face is that Trump's rise has told them things about their voters that they weren't ready to hear and don't know how to respond to. It is surely significant that so many have voted for a candidate who is willing to soften his words on Planned Parenthood, who thinks that the Iraq War was a huge mistake or who won't reform entitlements.
    On policy, Trumpism is often more moderate than orthodox conservatism. In tone, however, it is considerably cruder. This is old-fashioned populism: an economic platform that is intended to help Middle America, even if its economic illiteracy ends up hurting the entire country.
    In 2016, conservatives might have to surrender to Trump and/or find some way of distancing themselves from him. But in the long run, they have to acknowledge the issues he has raised and build some kind of constructive partnership with his voters.
    Republicans and a few crossover Democrats are defecting to Donald Trump. He is huge, and he isn't going away.