WASHINGTON — Donald Trump is the GOP’s presumptive presidential nominee. Deal with it.
After Trump’s Indiana victory on Tuesday, Ted Cruz suspended his campaign, and John Kasich quit on Wednesday.
Some Republicans will “begrudgingly fall in line,” predicted Ryan Williams, a GOP strategist who advised Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign, when we talked on Wednesday.
Romney was part of the stop-Trump movement, launched too late to sideline the billionaire businessman who bullied his way to the top with an assist from the massive amounts of free television time the reality show star was able to get from ratings-craving TV shows.
Trump is set to face Democrat Hillary Clinton, her “presumptive” title delayed because Bernie Sanders, with his Indiana win, is staying in even though the delegate math is not in his favor.
As the possibility of a President Trump sinks in after months of an incendiary general election campaign, more than the White House is at stake.
There is the impact on down-ticket contests and Merrick Garland’s Supreme Court nomination. Trump at the top of the ballot brightens prospects for Democrats to take control of the Senate in general and the Illinois Senate contest in particular.
“It appears Trump is intoxicated by his own spin and he thinks he can remain on course and not change anything as he heads towards the general,” Williams said. “. . . Clearly he’s also poisoned the well with general election voters.”
THE UNTOLD UIC RALLY STORY
But first, an untold story about Trump and the rally at the University of Illinois at Chicago Pavilion on the Friday night before the March 15 vote. Trump, already in Chicago, canceled the rally when skirmishes broke out between his supporters and protesters.
Trump’s choice of UIC for his March 11 rally was puzzling, given that the school is on Democratic turf, has lots of immigrants and was easy to get to on public transportation.
What happened is not as sexy as some of the speculation back in March — that Trump was looking for a fight or didn’t realize where he was going.
Turns out the UIC facility was not the first choice of the Trump campaign, according to Kent Gray, who was the Illinois Trump state director.
There are “really not that many spots around in Illinois where you can have a 10,000-person rally inside,” Gray told me. Two northwest suburban venues — in Rosemont, the Allstate Arena, formerly known as the Rosemont Horizon, and the Sears Arena in Hoffman Estates — could not lock in the date the Trump team wanted. The United Center wanted $80,000-a-night and the UIC only charged $10,000 in rent, not counting other associated costs for police and extra staffing.
“UIC ended up being an affordable venue that was open,” Gray said, “but I think we would have had a lot of protesters even if we were at Rosemont, the United Center, maybe not as many at the Sears Center.”
And where did Trump stay while determining whether or not to head over to UIC? At the Trump International Hotel and Tower, 401 N. Wabash. Trump’s campaign spending disclosure shows a $2,452.45 payment to the Chicago hotel on March 7.
KIRK VS. DUCKWORTH
Democrats have already been linking vulnerable Republicans — in Illinois that’s Sen. Mark Kirk and Rep. Bob Dold — to Trump.
Kevin Artl, Kirk’s campaign manager, told me on Wednesday: “Kirk is probably the best positioned Senate Republican candidate in the nation because he is overperforming in key demographics that most Republicans struggle with, including Hispanic voters and independent female voters.”
Trump’s anti-Mexico, anti-immigration rhetoric could help turn out a big Hispanic vote. Matt McGrath, Duckworth’s deputy campaign manager, told me “there is still a bit of disbelief this has actually happened.” Every Democrat, it seems, is trying to raise money off of Trump but the Duckworth camp got a “pop” when it sent out an appeal on Tuesday.
For almost three weeks, the Duckworth team has been hitting Kirk for his Senate leaders blocking a hearing and a vote on the Lincolnwood-raised Garland, even though Kirk has called for both.
With Trump the presumptive nominee, it makes it easier for Democrats to increase pressure on Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, the Judiciary Committee chairman up for re-election who is resisting calling a Garland hearing.