While most of the early coverage of the most recent Republican debate has focused on the pissing contest becoming less metaphorical and more literal, the most important point of the debate came at the end:
The most important moment in Thursday night’s campaign came on the final question, when the three non-Trump candidates were all asked if they would support him as the nominee. They replied that they would, even though Rubio has made “NeverTrump” a slogan for his campaign. Rubio should have used the slogan “InconceivableTrump,” so that Inigo Montoya could correct him. (“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”)
And while there will be some cranky exceptions, this is pretty much what party elites are going to do: rally around Trump. We can also see this in the fact that Romney’s anti-Trump speech did not suggest that Romney would refuse to support Trump against Clinton/Sanders.
Is there any chance that Republican elites will try to stop trump at the RNC if he is held to just a plurality? I hope so, although I doubt it. First of all, unless Rubio can come back from a huge deficit and take Florida it’s hard to see how Trump is denied a majority. But even if the party could stop him at the convention, this would be (from their perspective) a terrible idea. I will come back to this in a future discussion of why the Democratic superdelegate system needs to go, but even on its own terms supplanting the voters’ winner with the party’s choice makes no sense. All things being equal, there are certainly any number of Republicans (including, I think, Kasich and Rubio) who would have a better chance than Trump in the general election. What I don’t believe is that there’s any candidate who would be more electable than Trump after Trump was supplanted despite getting the most primary votes. If you think that the Democrats in 1972 are the model of how a party should enter a presidential election, you’d love that scenario.