'Stop Trump' forces go on attack, pour millions into TV ads

WASHINGTON • Republicans hoping to halt billionaire Donald Trump's march to their party's presidential nomination emerged from the weekend's voting contests newly emboldened by his uneven electoral performance and by some nascent signs that he may be peaking with voters.

Vote tallies last Saturday made clear that Mr Trump has had at least some trouble building upon his loyal following, leaving him increasingly dependent upon landslides in early voting. In Louisiana, where he amassed a lead of more than 20 percentage points in early voting, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas actually bested him, narrowly, among those who voted last Saturday.

Mr Trump's losses to Sen Cruz in Kansas and Maine last Saturday, coupled with closer-than-expected victories in Louisiana and Kentucky, have heightened the prospects for a two-man race. "Saturday proved that Trump can be contained and even beaten," said Republican strategist Scott Jennings.

Mr Trump struck a subdued tone, by his standards, as returns came in last Saturday. He aborted his first attempt to take the stage and when he finally did speak, some of his usual bombast was missing. "Donald Trump was uncharacteristically low energy," 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney said in an NBC interview on Sunday.

The Stop Trump forces are also beginning to pour money into TV ads. Four different outside groups are moving to deploy more than US$10 million (S$13.9 million) in new attack ads, casting Mr Trump as a liberal, huckster and draft dodger.

His reed-thin organisation also appears to be catching up with him: His campaign has no pollster, so it is governed by public polling and what the candidate observes on the news. This off-the-cuff approach, and a string of self-inflicted wounds - such as refusing to reject the support of a white supremacist - have fuelled unfavourable coverage.

"Trump has total disdain for the professional political class," said Republican strategist Scott Reed. "Their idea of a political organisation is taking phone calls from some elected officials... And that'll catch up with you eventually."

NEW YORK TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 08, 2016, with the headline ''Stop Trump' forces go on attack, pour millions into TV ads'. Print Edition | Subscribe