For months, much of the Republican Party’s establishment has been uneasy about the rise of Donald J. Trump, concerned that he was overwhelming the presidential primary contest and encouraging other candidates to mimic his incendiary speech. Now, though, irritation is giving way to panic as it becomes increasingly plausible that Mr. Trump could be the party’s standard-bearer and imperil the careers of other Republicans.
And some Republicans repelled by Mr. Trump feel little urgency to attack him because, they say, he is preventing what they see as an even less desirable standard-bearer — Senator Ted Cruz of Texas — from consolidating the votes of hard-line conservatives.
“He’s keeping Cruz where he is,” Scott Reed, a veteran Republican strategist, said of Mr. Trump.
In the House, where the Republican majority is safer, there is less worry about Mr. Trump. While the most competitive Senate races are in swing states, many House districts tilt toward the right, and the populist fervor that is lifting Mr. Trump may also aid Republican candidates for those seats.
But there are also some Republicans who, while uneasy about Mr. Trump, believe that he could attract new voters to the party. “He may bring out people who don’t usually vote, which could be helpful to some of my colleagues,” said Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine.
The amazing thing to note here is that some GOP insiders are actually warming to the idea of a Trump nomination. It’s clear he could create a new coalition of voters in the general election, a coalition which may be formidable for the eventual Democratic nominee to overcome. On the other hand, they see Ted Cruz as being more problematic than Trump because Cruz doesn’t have the same broad spectrum of appeal.
In the end, Rubio is the winner of the establishment and donor support which will be funneled in his direction. The idea is that, as the field consolidates further, Rubio will be there to take support from Bush, Fiorina, and Kasich, and then out-last Cruz and eventually win the nomination over Trump.
The behind-the-scenes shuffling is reaching a fever pitch with the next Republican debate coming up on December 15, and just sixty days to go until the Iowa caucus.