Mitch McConnell Eases His Way Toward #NeverTrump

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky. smiles while answering a reporter's question at a news conference following a closed-door policy meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2016. The Senate will take no action on anyone President Barack Obama nominates to fill the Supreme Court vacancy, Senator McConnell said as nearly all Republicans rallied behind his calls to leave the seat vacant for the next president to fill. His announcement came after Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee ruled out any hearing for an Obama pick. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky. smiles while answering a reporter's question at a news conference following a closed-door policy meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2016. The Senate will take no action on anyone President Barack Obama nominates to fill the Supreme Court vacancy, Senator McConnell said as nearly all Republicans rallied behind his calls to leave the seat vacant for the next president to fill. His announcement came after Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee ruled out any hearing for an Obama pick. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

I don’t know if this helps the cause but it is what it is:

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said “he’s not going to get into” 2016, but he appeared to signal he wants someone other than the current GOP front-runner Donald Trump to win the nomination.

The Kentucky senator said in an interview with Kentucky television station WHAS11 posted Saturday that he’s increasingly optimistic that there “may actually be a second ballot” at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

McConnell pointed to the current Republican National Committee rules requiring a candidate to win the 1,237 delegates necessary to clinch the nomination.

“When a nominee gets to 1,237 he will actually be the candidate. If he doesn’t, there will be a second ballot. And about 60% of the delegates who are bound on the first ballot will be free to do what they want to on a second ballot,” he said. “And I’m increasingly optimistic that there may actually be a second ballot.”

There are a few key take-aways from this.

1. Earlier in the campaign cycle, a romance seemed to be looming between the GOP establishment and the candidate most like them: Donald Trump. There was a belief (which I confess to having shared), that Trump believed in nothing and therefore was unlikely to upset the apple cart. At the time he also looked like he could make a credible case for being able to unify the GOP and thrash Hillary Clinton. No one believes any of that anymore. McConnell may be late to the show, but he is there.

2. McConnell, and by extension most of the establishment GOP, want to see a convention go beyond the first ballot so anyone other than Trump may emerge. There is undoubtedly a hope in some circles that Lamar Alexander or Orrin Hatch will emerge as a “fresh face” but regardless of that, there is no enthusiasm for a Trump candidacy.

3. McConnell is implicitly endorsing Cruz’s strategy of wooing candidates for a second and subsequent ballot.

If McConnell is at the point of StopTrump now, it is only a matter of a short period of time until self-preservation pushes him into the #NeverTrump camp.