Donald Trump will never be the GOP nominee. Donald Trump will never be president. Just keep repeating that until you believe it.
Despite leading the polls and defying pretty much every prediction by pundits and every instance of the previously immutable laws of politics, Donald Trump is still not the favorite to win the Republican nomination for president. But there's an outcome which, in a way, might be worse.
It is certainly more likely, which was pointed out by RealClearPolitics' Sean Trende. It should also terrify a lot of people, particularly conservatives and Republicans, but, really, anyone who cares about the health of our politics.
And here it is: Bush/Trump 2016.
It sounds outlandish, but hear me out. We know that right now there is no frontrunner for the party's nomination. Not only that, but there is an abundance of very strong candidates: Bush, Rubio, and Walker at least. There's also Paul and Cruz as wildcards who bring their own bases, plus the possibility of a dark-horse-who-could-also-be-a-credible-candidate, like Perry or Jindal.
Now, imagine the Trump boomlet doesn't dissipate, perhaps buoyed by a hundred million dollar ad buy (why not!). And imagine that each of the other candidates win an important early contest. Imagine a lengthening primary contest where Bush, Rubio, and Walker are all at each other's throats, with no clear winner.
And now imagine heading into the Republican Convention with no winner, and Donald Trump having, say, 15 or 20 percent of the delegates.
Can you say "leverage"?
I can mock Trump all I want (and I do), but one thing is for sure: I wouldn't want to be on the other side of him at a negotiating table, especially in a fraught process so filled with legal technicalities.
You can be sure that if the scenario I'm describing starts to look likely, the Republican establishment will start rejiggering rules on the fly to disadvantage Trump, which will almost certainly invite lawsuits, raising the real possibility of legal fights over who is the Republican nominee that stretch even beyond Election Day. Oh boy.
Heading into such a scenario, Trump would have more leverage than anybody, because he would have the money and because he is the only one who has refused to pledge to support the eventual Republican nominee.
In that case, what could Trump get? The Economist's Will Wilkinson suspects Trump wants a giant tax cut. The Art of the Deal in every public library in America? An ambassadorship? A cabinet post? What for? And besides, Trump doesn't go for anything small-time.
I can already see the stickers.