Conservatives shouldn't be surprised at all that the Republican old guard is plotting to sabotage the campaign of a candidate that it finds distasteful, to say nothing of one as popular as Trump. In fact, GOP leaders have more often than not tried to undermine candidates' bids for the party's nomination regardless of how positively voters viewed them.
“As Greenfield points out, when iconic conservative Senator Barry Goldwater (R-AZ) won the nomination for president, many of his rivals refused to endorse him for the Oval Office, including Governor Nelson Rockefeller (R-NY) and Governor George Romney (R-MI). Romney ripped Goldwater’s ‘extremist' supporters' and would later support Gerald Ford over Ronald Reagan in 1976 and George H.W. Bush over Reagan in 1980.
These liberal Republicans, who believed in bigger government, didn’t appreciate Goldwater’s libertarianism and forcibly undercut his doomed bid. Greenfield cites the New York Herald-Tribune going so far as to endorse LBJ, the most leftist president until Barack Obama, for the White House over Goldwater.
And while the Republican establishment would like everyone to think that they were the reason for the rise of Ronald Reagan, they did everything they could to stop Reagan. Not only did establishment Republicans back George H.W. Bush over Reagan in the 1980 primaries – Bush infamously bragged about his support from liberal Republicans like Henry Cabot Lodge – but a few went so far as to support the independent candidacy of former liberal Republican Rep. John Anderson of Illinois, who dumped the Party after Reagan won the nomination. Anderson explained, ‘I would be more comfortable with Teddy Kennedy in the sense that I do believe that Ronald Reagan’s view of the problems of our day is so utterly inappropriate.'
Obviously, the establishment failed in stopping Reagan. But with the election of H.W. Bush, they grabbed control of the Party again, and they haven’t given it up since.”
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