Now that Donald Trump is the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, the hand-wringing and discord within the party is growing.
An increasing number of high-profile Republicans say they can't or won't support his candidacy. Among them: former Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush. On Thursday afternoon, House Speaker Paul Ryan said he's not ready to back Trump, at least not yet.
“I’m just not ready to do that at this point,” said Ryan. “I hope to though, and I want to, but I think what is required is that we unify this party. And I think the bulk of the burden on unifying the party will have to come from our presumptive nominee.”
Earlier on Thursday, Politico obtained an audio recording of Sen. John McCain at a fundraiser expressing concern over Trump’s impact on his campaign for re-election.
“If Donald Trump is at the top of the ticket, here in Arizona, with over 30 percent of the vote being the Hispanic vote, no doubt that this may be the race of my life,” he said.
In Illinois, political observers are closely watching how Trump affects the Senate race between incumbent Republican Mark Kirk and Democrat Tammy Duckworth. Kirk earlier this year told NBC-5 that he “certainly would” support Trump if he were the party’s nominee, a comment that the Duckworth campaign has used to tie Kirk to Trump. But Kirk has since distanced himself, telling the Chicago Sun-Times in March that he has not endorsed anyone.
Chris Robling, a Republican analyst; Anthony Anderson, an Illinois Republican delegate for Trump; and Jim Warren, contributing editor at U.S. News and World Report and chief media writer for the Poynter Institute joined “Chicago Tonight” to talk about the rise of Trump.
On the divide in the Republican Party
“I wouldn’t say that it is in full ‘civil war mode,’” Robling said. “But it’s not good … I think that Donald Trump has scored a lot of votes with the voters, but he’s also behaved in a way that I think has given a basis for people to wonder exactly how well he’s going to do in November and what the impact is going to be for the party – and more importantly, what the impact will be for the country at large.”
“This party is at civil war. We’ve had people like Speaker Ryan for the last 15-20 years promise things to the Republican electorate and never deliver, and therein lies the problem,” Anderson said. “Donald Trump, for all intents and purposes, was created by the Paul Ryans of the Republican Party, Donald Trump was created by the John Boehners of the world. Donald Trump was created by the George Bushes of the world. So don’t blame Donald Trump for who he is. Don’t blame the people of this country for wanting somebody like a Donald Trump.”
“It’s fascinating what happened with Paul Ryan today in Burlington, Wis., and encapsulates a really interesting, inherent tension,” Warren said. “Here’s the highest elected Republican official signaling folks, ‘don’t worry, you don’t got to back this guy – at least not yet.’ But the tension is with this question – does it matter at all? This is a guy who for the last year has defied all conventions, he has flouted orthodoxy, he has proven people like me consistently wrong.”
On Trump’s enduring appeal
“The thing about Donald Trump that specifically appeals to me is that he’s plain-spoken, he understands what this country is going through, he’s seen where we’ve come from as a nation,” Anderson said. “Donald Trump’s ability to connect with the average voter, to me, initially 10 months ago and that’s why I came on as a delegate for Illinois.”
“He has a bombastic behavior about him – I understand that – but then again, this is politics,” Anderson added. “He was able to knock out 17 different opponents … so job well done.”
“‘Bombast’…does not necessarily include uttering falsehoods on almost a daily basis,” Warren said.
More election coverage from 'Chicago Tonight'
May 3: The barbs turned personal during Tuesday's primary battle in Indiana. Trump claimed another victory, and Cruz suspended his campaign. What will these results mean for the big picture?
April 20: Tuesday’s primary in New York proved that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are the front-runners in their respective parties, with both candidates winning big in a state that was crucial to each campaign. What does it mean for the other candidates moving forward?
April 12: As Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump blasts the delegate-selection process, we take a look at how it works on both sides of the aisle.
March 21: Efforts to derail Donald Trump's momentum heat up within the GOP as voters in Arizona and Utah decide who to support in Tuesday's primaries.