Senator Mike Lee appeared on Meet the Press this morning to press his case that Donald Trump should withdraw from the race. As always, Senator Lee was very effective and well-spoken. He made the case against Hillary Clinton, and extended an olive branch to Trump supporters. But his central case was that he doesn’t think Donald Trump can win:
CHUCK TODD: Anything that Rudy Giuliani said there that would make you reconsider your support for Donald Trump or give him time tonight to show real contrition and change your mind?
SEN. MIKE LEE: No, but there is something that Mr. Giuliani said that I think was significant which is that Hillary Clinton is, in fact, a flawed candidate — a deeply flawed candidate. So flawed, in fact, that I think the Democratic Party ought to be taking steps to replace her with someone else. For whatever reason, they’ve not. The Democratic Party has chosen to be the party of the Personality Cult during the presidential election cycle. I don’t think we ought to follow that path. The path I would suggest is a path that would bring Republicans together.
Bring together those grassroots activists who have made Donald Trump so successful, who have had this very persuasive argument that the Washington political establishment of both parties has failed them and that we need a new leader, a Republican leader who can win, who can defeat Hillary Clinton.
That’s what unites us more than anything else as Republicans is the fact that the Washington political establishment is broken and Hillary Clinton needs to be defeated. We need a candidate who can do that and I would like to see the Republican Party identify such a candidate and make that change.
CHUCK TODD: You know, you identified flaws with Donald Trump and were willing to speak out about it before many others were. A lot of people are now joining you over the last 48 hours and a lot of Democrats and even some voters in the middle are going to say, “Why now? Why did you wait ’til now? The evidence was there for months, arguably, years.” And certainly, for instance, you, Senator Lee, you showed the judgment of not supporting him a year ago and stuck with it. How should other Republicans who have suddenly decided, “Okay, I’m not supporting him now,” answer that question?
SEN. MIKE LEE: Well, I think people have to consider the totality of the evidence. There were some like me who had raised questions in light of warning signs early on. There were a lot of others, who wanted to be persuaded, who hoped that they might be persuaded between now and November.
What was released less than 48 hours ago was less than persuasive. In fact, it turned a lot of people off to the point that I have serious doubts now about Mr. Trump’s ability to defeat Hillary Clinton. In fact, I don’t think he can. Now there is a way here for Mr. Trump to have a legacy in this election cycle and for his supporters, who are really energetic and who have done a whole lot of good, as far as expanding the party, to have a lasting legacy that could mean something here.
And that is for Donald Trump to step aside and for the Republican Party to find a candidate who can bring together all the elements within the Republican Party and defeat Hillary Clinton in November. That’s what we want to do, that’s what we need to do now.
Mike Lee is worried about the Republican party and the good of the nation — and Donald Trump is worried about . . . Donald Trump. As reported by Jay Caruso earlier this afternoon, Trump’s crisis strategy has been to tell his supporters to attack any Republicans who have criticized him in the last 48 hours. The potential damage to the House and Senate — and to Republicans’ ability to confirm good judges and pass a Republican agenda — come second to Trump’s own ego.
I, for one, am shocked. (I am not actually shocked.) But I think it’s important, as we watch this trainwreck unfold before our eyes, to remember the good men like Mike Lee who have consistently and honorably tried to avert this disaster — for the sake of our country and our founding principles.