Ladies and gentlemen, meet the 'Half Trumpers'

Story highlights

  • Buck Sexton: Even with shake-up, GOP knows Donald Trump won't change
  • "Half-Trumpers" won't endorse GOP nominee but will vote for him, he says
  • Sexton: Meanwhile, Democrats look unified, and Hillary Clinton looking more inevitable

Buck Sexton is a political commentator for CNN and host of "The Buck Sexton Show" on TheBlaze. He was previously a CIA counterterrorism analyst. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his.

(CNN)For anyone who wants a Republican in the White House in 2017, the situation looks bleak.

The much-touted Trump pivot hasn't happened yet, and even with the new shake-up at the top of his campaign operation, there's a good chance it never will.
    Reality has finally set in for many of the GOP faithful that the Donald of six months ago is, unsurprisingly, the same candidate they have today. Adding to the parade of deficiencies is the Trump campaign apparatus, which appears to believe having a serious ground game and taking out ad buys in battleground states are for chumps.
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    Perhaps none of this will matter in the end if the party unifies behind Trump. But a rapprochement hasn't materialized, and the hour is late. The GOP squabbling during the primary has turned into an ideological tectonic rift in the general election, with the so-called Never Trump movement of the conservative base refusing to budge, even after the party's convention in Cleveland.
    On the contrary, some of the Never Trump crowd, including senators, members of Congress and prominent voices within the conservative movement, have doubled down on their pledges never to vote for Trump. Some erstwhile GOP stalwarts even say they will vote for Hillary Clinton.
    And now there is another dissatisfied faction emerging within the GOP that the Trump camp must contend with -- one that seeks to remain loyal to the Republican Party while refusing to tie reputations to the candidate. They may vote for Trump, but they won't officially stand for him. Let's call them "Half Trumpers."
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    One such politician, Sen. Kelly Ayotte, made headlines this week by refusing to endorse Trump, while promising as a voter to pull the lever on his behalf. Depending on how one views Ayotte (who faces a difficult re-election battle in New Hampshire this fall) this position of personal support without public promotion is pure self-interest, a principled stand or a combination of both.
    Regardless, she is yet another symptom of a party that has not united behind its candidate, and is full of politicos who are hedging their bets for the fall.
    Another prominent half-Trumper is Sen. Marco Rubio, who has said he supports the Republican nominee yet still stands behind calling Trump a "con man." Rubio's reluctance is obvious, and his pro-Trump sentiments unconvincing.
    Like many of Trump's former primary opponents, Rubio finds himself in the unenviable position of either bowing before a candidate who has at least temporarily gutted conservatism from atop the Republican Party, or standing idly by as Clinton becomes the next commander in chief.
    What's clear is that many Republicans don't want to be blamed for a Trump loss, they won't take any undue risks on his behalf, but would also like to share in the credit for a possible Trump victory. They will unenthusiastically murmur on Trump's behalf when asked to in public. And that is all.
    As Republicans attempt to straddle these lines, the Democrats seem to march in near lockstep behind their candidate, and Clinton has once again started to look inevitable.