**Want FOX News First in your inbox every day? Sign up here.**
• Trump takes GOP, can he take the general?
• GOP donors close wallets to Trump
• Bernie scores in Indiana, but it’s not a slam dunk
• Team Hillary gears up for the general election with hiring spree
• Ha, ha, ha… run for your lives!
TRUMP TAKES GOP, CAN HE TAKE THE GENERAL?
Well, that was something…
It was 46 weeks ago that Donald Trump rode a gilded escalator into history. And now, the Republican Party will never be the same.
Sen. Ted Cruz, the last and unlikeliest avatar of the traditional Republican Party bowed out of the race Tuesday. Cruz handed the crown to Trump while simultaneously delivering his first speech of the 2020 campaign.
It was, as has often been the case this cycle, an utterly jarring moment. A sitting U.S. senator who had, hours earlier, spoken of his party’s frontrunner’s “battles with venereal disease” in retribution for said frontrunner maliciously implicating the senator’s father in the assassination of John F. Kennedy, made his rival a finalist for possession of the nuclear football.
Not even Tom Wolfe could have conjured it.
The question of what the Republican Party will look like four years from now when Cruz returns to comfort what he assumes will be a jilted bride depends, of course, on how well Trump fares as a general election candidate.
If Trump is savaged in a 40-state wipeout, will the party be ready to go back to its conservative roots? In a win or a close loss will the “America first” populist progressivism of Trump have taken the party into its thrall for a generation? Is this the GOP’s William Jennings Bryan moment?
The next 27 weeks and a thoroughly pureed electorate will tell the tale.
But the next few weeks will tell us a great deal about how it will end.
First, how large is the anti-Trump rump in the GOP? And how will it respond to the death of its long-nurtured dream of a contested Republican convention in which Pegasus carries aloft the perfect candidate to both unify the party and defeat Hillary Clinton?
(For that matter, what will happen to the reporters who have seen their dreams of floor fights and delegate whip counts extinguished like a Pall Mall in a beanbag ashtray?)
Exit polls have shown large numbers of Republicans say they will not support Trump in the fall, even as his takeover bid was succeeding.
And while it’s true that Trump is on track to receive more votes than any GOP primary candidate ever, he also has had more votes cast against him than any GOP candidate. Ever. He’s also received a lot fewer votes than his Democratic counterpart. So by any measure, Trump enters the general election atop a deeply divided party.
And while some of that divide will heal, we don’t know how soon or how well.
It’s an unquestionably good thing for Trump to be done with a primary season in which a discussion of VD was not even the lowest point. But he now faces 10 weeks before it becomes official in Cleveland.
This gives his conservative enemies time to plot. There is time now to form a protest party or start a push for an exodus to the Libertarian Party. Neither would have been possible had Trump won in a flash of heat and light at the convention.
How Trump acts will have a lot to say about how his conservative enemies respond.
In his speech Tuesday night, Trump sure wasn’t talking to what at least until this year was deemed the GOP base. He railed against free trade and foreign intervention and then called for increased domestic spending on infrastructure. It was not anti-Obamism but obverse Obamism.
This is the exactly correct general election message for the former Reform Party candidate to take. If Trump keeps his populist, trans-partisan message going into the general, he could do a lot to scramble an electoral map that has been basically static since 1992.
Clinton isn’t completely done with her primary precisely because there is huge energy in the voting public behind radical solutions. Both parties are nominating big-government aficionados. One is also offering massive disruption of a hated system.
But then there’s the money.
As of today, Trump is owed more than $20 million by the Republican Party. That’s the money he’s loaned his campaign that is now due to him as the nominee. Moreover, the general election funds available to a major party nominee are still over that tantalizing midsummer threshold.
Trump will need another $50 million or so to grease the skids to start the general election campaign. He has to build out an organization from scratch. There can be no delay.
Trump needs money, but that money comes at a cost.
The K Street/consultant barnacles he has begun to accumulate have a solution. If Trump plays nice, behaves and raises money for the party and the outside groups that will seek to, ironically, protect down-ballot candidates against the possibility of a Dukakis-sized crushing because of him, the establishment will not only pay Trump back but help him to raise what he needs to build a campaign.
This is how business in D.C. is done. You win, you get. But, you get, you pay.
The donors won’t pony up, though, if Trump is conspiracy theorizing, free associating and offering policy provisions that break the ideological silos on the state level that could facilitate a long-shot bid against the well-funded poll favorite Clinton for 270 electoral votes.
Remember always that voting against Trump will likely be a cultural signifier for Hispanic voters in the way that voting for President Obama was for African Americans.
And remember also that the Clinton machine is very soon about to start shelling Trump on anti-woman rhetoric.
So that’s what it comes down to: How serious is the anti-Trump rump of the GOP and will Trump decide or be obliged to sell out his Perot-ist message over the next 10 weeks in order to get the $75 million in seed money he needs to get going.
[GOP delegate count: Trump 1047; Cruz 565; Kasich 153 (1,237 needed to win)]
WITH YOUR SECOND CUP OF COFFEE…
On this Star Wars Day – you know, “May the 4th Be With You” – fans around the world are celebrating. But did you know the iconic music is not original to the franchise? Daily Beast: “John Williams’ score for Star Wars has become iconic—one of the most celebrated in cinema history. But few know that that it was heavily inspired by, if not outright poached from, Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s score to the 1942 movie Kings Row, starring an up and coming actor by the name of Ronald Reagan. Korngold’s score was so popular that Warner Bros.’ music department, inundated by requests, drafted a form-letter response for recording or sheet music queries (film scores for non-musicals weren’t commercially distributed until years later). Futhermore, Reagan requested that the original orchestral score to Kings Row play during his presidential inauguration.”
Got a TIP from the RIGHT or the LEFT? Email FoxNewsFirst@FOXNEWS.COM
Real Clear Politics Averages
General Election: Clinton vs. Trump: Clinton +6.2 points
Generic Congressional Vote: Democrats +2.3
GOP DONORS CLOSE WALLETS TO TRUMP
David Drucker says big bundlers are holding on to their cash with the reality of Trump as the inevitable GOP nominee: “The Republican donors who helped Mitt Romney raise $1 billion in 2012 have a target figure in mind for Donald Trump: zero. Repelled by Trump and convinced he can’t beat Hillary Clinton, wealthy GOP contributors are abandoning the presidential contest and directing their lucrative networks to spend to invest in protecting vulnerable Republican majorities in the House and Senate. They are undoubtedly gun shy after wasting time and money on Republicans who Trump destroyed in the primary.”
BERNIE SCORES IN INDIANA, BUT IT’S NOT A SLAM DUNK
Vox: “Bernie Sanders won the Indiana Democratic primary on Tuesday night, giving his campaign a moral boost if not an actual path to the Democratic nomination…because of the Democrats’ proportional allocation rules, Sanders and Clinton are likely to essentially split Indiana’s 92 delegates — meaning the victory won’t help Sanders cut into Clinton’s big delegate lead…By winning Indiana, Sanders will probably bolster his ability to maintain the fundraising and staffing that have made his insurgency impossible — complicating Clinton’s efforts to wrap up the primary as soon as possible.”
Team Hillary gears up for the general election with hiring spree - Politico: “Over the last two weeks, Clinton has been quietly accelerating her swing-state operation, organizing what amounts to a shadow general election campaign at the same time she is fending off a rival who insists he’ll continue to fight until the Democratic convention in July. In recent days, the Clinton campaign has finalized a series of senior hires around the country, expanded the size of her central swing-state planning team in New York, and hundreds of thousands of dollars have been transferred to strategically important state parties from the Democratic National Committee. She’s also scheduled a series of public speeches and private meetings in states that will be crucial to her general election campaign.”
[Dem delegate count: Clinton 2202; Sanders 1400 (2,383 needed to win)]
Pressure mounts for GOP leaders to rally around Trump - WSJ
And a…rough moment for Cruz - USA Today
Nate Silver says voters “tribal” mentality helped sustain Trump - FiveThirtyEight
Why Trump will have an uphill battle against Hillary - NYT
HA, HA, HA… RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!
ABC News: “An alligator was recently caught scratching at the front door of a South Carolina family’s home as if it were attempting to ring the doorbell. The unusual sight was recorded on video Monday morning in Moncks Corner, South Carolina, according to ABC affiliate WCIV. A man named Gary Rogers had been walking his dog when he suddenly saw the gator casually wandering around the residential neighborhood, the station reported… [Rogers] said that the gator ‘looked like he was really trying to make an attempt to get over the fence and into this woman’s pool in the backyard’ but then ‘it went over to the house...up around the doorbell.’ But no one was home to answer the door, and the gator eventually left.”
Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News. Sally Persons contributed to this report. Want FOX News First in your inbox every day? Sign up here.
Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as politics editor based in Washington, D.C. Additionally, he authors the daily Fox News Halftime Report political news note and co-hosts the hit podcast, Perino & Stirewalt: I'll Tell You What. He also is the host of Power Play, a feature video series on FoxNews.com. Stirewalt makes frequent appearances on network programs, including America’s Newsroom, Special Report with Bret Baier and Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace. He also provides expert political analysis for FNC’s coverage of state, congressional and presidential elections.