Donald Trump

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump campaigns in Iowa in September. (Scott Olson / Getty Images)

Mark Z. Barabak
December 8, 2015

Donald Trump may be an imperfect candidate — he is coarse, impetuous, antagonistic — but he presents the Republican Party with a perfect dilemma.

For the second straight day, the world of politics was consumed with Trump’s latest provocation, a call for a near-blanket ban on Muslims entering the United States, underscoring the billionaire’s continued sway over his adopted party, its presidential candidates and the GOP agenda.

Many Republicans were quick to denounce the proposal but not its progenitor, fearing a backlash should Trump become the party’s eventual nominee. He is, after all, the leader in opinion polls and a favorite of many voters disgusted with more guarded, standard-issue politicians.

“This is not conservatism. What was proposed yesterday … is not what this party stands for,” House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) told reporters Tuesday after a meeting with GOP House members on Capitol Hill. “And more importantly, it’s not what this country stands for.”

Other members of the Republican establishment weighed in with criticism as well, including party leaders in three of the earliest-voting states, South Carolina, New Hampshire and Iowa.

“As a conservative who truly cares about religious liberty, Donald Trump’s bad idea and rhetoric send a shiver down my spine,” Matt Moore, head of the South Carolina Republican Party, wrote on Twitter.

Jennifer Horn, leader of the New Hampshire GOP, called Trump’s proposal “un-American” and “un-Republican.”

But the condemnations went only so far, as Ryan, Senate leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and other Republicans vowed to support Trump, whatever their qualms, should he emerge as the GOP’s standard-bearer.

Even Jeb Bush, who called Trump “unhinged” for proposing a religious test on newcomers as a way to fight terrorism, declined to back off an earlier pledge of support.

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